In a sign of the times, Rehoboth Beach approved a $25.9 million budget March 20 for next year with all commissioners voting remotely, except for Mayor Paul Kuhns.
The meeting was supposed to be the regular monthly commissioner meeting. However, measures taken because of COVID-19 forced the closure of city hall to the general public, so the meeting was live streamed. The only visual used for the meeting was the city’s hula hoop-cized logo commissioners usually sit in front of.
City Manager Sharon Lynn began the discussion, saying she doesn’t really know what the future holds, but the city has to prepare for the good times, while taking measures for the bad times.
With that in mind, she said two-thirds of a $3 million general fund capital improvement budget has been earmarked to be deferred until the fall. In a follow-up email March 25, Lynn said some of those projects include security measures for the lobby of city hall, the Lake Gerar tot lot, changing room improvements to the Delaware Avenue restroom, phase two of the Lake Avenue streetscape project, the replacement of convention center chairs, the replacement of a street sweeper, a LED retrofit project for Rehoboth Avenue streetlights, water meter replacements and the replacement of a sewer vacuum truck.
During the meeting, Lynn said other cost saving measures could be taken to save money including the delay of hiring the city’s 200 summer employees and possible temporary employee layoffs.
In her email, Lynn said there is time to make decisions on seasonal employees until when they would normally begin working in mid-May. The police department is hiring and training seasonal police officers as normally scheduled and temporary layoffs are not planned at this time, she said.
Next year’s $25.9 million budget, which begins Wednesday, April 1, represents approximately a 6.5 percent increase over last year’s budget. Lynn said the increase is the total capital improvement budget, which is roughly $5.5 million next year compared to roughly $4 million this year. Without the increase in the capital budget, the budget in aggregate would be flat, she said.
Commissioner discussion on the budget was limited – the meeting was less than 45 minutes long.
Commissioner Edward Chrzanowski credited Lynn and city staff with taking a proactive approach to the general fund capital improvement budget, and said it will be an issue that’s revisited many times over the coming year.
Commissioner Pat Coluzzi said she is confident Lynn will manage the city’s budget appropriately in these trying times.
Kuhns said he thought the budget was a good budget, with tough decisions made and still possibly have to be made. It will be a budget that’s analyzed much more than normal over the next 12 months, he said.