Sussex introduces $265.8 million budget

Fiscal year 2025 plan addresses high demand for services due to growth
May 24, 2024

Sussex County’s fiscal year 2025 budget reflects a slight downturn in building-related revenue and increased service levels to meet the demands of a growing population.

On May 21, Sussex County officials unveiled a proposed $265.8 million budget to fund a variety of local services, including 911 dispatchers, paramedics and other public safety, as well as pay for sewer expansions and continued open space preservation.

Revenue for county government comes through a variety of sources, including property taxes, realty transfer taxes, building permits and other service fees.

There will be no change in current property tax rates, though several fee increases are proposed, including $10 annually for sewer and $25 annually for unmetered water on public utility systems, as well as new and adjusted fees for the marriage bureau, planning & zoning and engineering offices.

The overall budget is down some $13 million, or 4.6%, from the current year’s plan as capital spending slows and federal funding from the pandemic-era American Rescue Plan Act package cycles out. 

“This budget reflects the ever-growing demands on the system while recognizing the reality of our economics at the local and national levels. Sussex County is answering the need for critical services at the best possible value,” said County Administrator Todd Lawson. 

Lawson said the budget has a high reliance on real estate sales, and it’s hard to predict how the market will trend, which forces the county to develop a conservative budget even with increased demands for services.

The realty transfer tax is the largest revenue producer for the county, which comprises 35% of all revenue. It’s followed by property taxes at 22%.

Lawson said the county will add seven employees in emergency medical services because of record levels of 911 calls and paramedics dispatches. In addition, another Delaware State Police trooper will be funded.

Finance Director Gina Jennings said building reached a peak in 2021-22. This year, building permits are down 9% and, she said, building-related revenue is down $1.1 million over the previous year to $12 million. It peaked in 2022 at nearly $20 million.

The county is budgeting the transfer tax at $35 million in FY 2025, which is an increase of $3.5 million from the previous year.

A restricted revenue source, 91% will be dedicated to public safety expenditures.

The general fund budget – which supports the operations of the county’s various departments and programs – is up more than 10% from the previous year to $99 million.

The largest expense in the general fund is personnel at $47.8 million, a budgeted increase of nearly 7%. The grant-in-aid program totals $27.4 million, an increase of $3 million from the previous budget, and $3 million in capital improvements, which is up more than 111%.

Jennings said while the population has grown 31% since 2009 to nearly 256,000 residents, county staff has only increased 5%, with 549 employees this year.

What’s in the budget

$52.5 million for wastewater infrastructure, including new sewer mains, increased treatment capacity and other upgrades to the county’s utility systems.

$7.4 million to preserve open space and farmland, protecting it from future development.

Increased funding, from $4.1 million to $4.6 million, for the county’s contract with the State of Delaware for 24 supplemental state police troopers assigned to Sussex County.

$3.4 million in funding to pay for the continuing court-ordered property reassessment.

$2.6 million for the design, planning and construction of paramedic stations in the Dewey Beach, Lincoln, Millsboro and Milton areas.

$5.7 million for local fire companies and ambulance squads to help with operational costs, including paid EMT salaries.

Increased funding, from $800,000 to $900,000, for municipalities providing law enforcement services.

More funding, from $300,000 to $1 million, for rehabilitation for low-income households.

Funding for 11 new positions to serve the growing population, namely two new positions for sewer, eight positions related to public safety and one position in planning & zoning.

Budget numbers

• $10.3 million for health insurance, an increase of 10%, for current employees

• $3.3 million for pensioner’s health insurance

• $12.2 million for public safety (44% of the grant-in-aid budget)

• $3 million for independent libraries

• $2.1 million for community assistance

• $2.6 million EXCITE Sussex loan program

• $1.5 million for the Trap Pond water park

• $417,000 to Sussex County Land Trust

• $1.8 million for housing assistance

• $225,000 for human service grants

• $225,000 for councilmanic and youth grants.

General fund capital

The county has several projects planned during the next fiscal year, including $5.6 million for Delaware Coastal Airport projects, with $1.5 million for runway four expansion to 6,123 feet (total cost is $24.6 million.) The Federal Aviation Administration funds 90% of the cost and the state funds the other 10%.

Also included is $1.63 million for paramedic stations, $2 million for parking, and $6.6 million for open space and property acquisition and projects to provide public use of lands.

Revenue includes $11.9 million in transfer tax reserves, $4.7 million from the FAA, $600,000 for investment income and $206,000 from the state.

In the $52.5 million sewer capital budget are some big-ticket projects including $12.5 million for upgrades at the Inland Bays Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility and $4 million at the South Coastal facility; $6 million to start the expansion project to create the Slaughter Beach Sewer Area; $4.25 million for the Lochwood expansion; and $3 million for Herring Creek.

Hearing on June 18

County council will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget during its 10 a.m. meeting Tuesday, June 18, in council chambers in the county administrative building, 2 The Circle, Georgetown. The public can comment on that date, or submit comments through the internet at By law, council must adopt a budget by June 30.

To view a copy of the proposed budget, as well as the accompanying budget presentation, go to

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