The Sussex County Commissioners on April 28 unanimously adopted the $115.1 million county budget for 2021.
Commissioner Herbert Yardley was absent.
The budget calls for a tax levy of $97.4 million, a decrease of 1.91 percent from 2020. The budget also comes in at $2.2 million less than the county’s 2020 budget.
The most notable decreases in the budget are for insurance, at $1.08 million less, and debt costs, which are down to $989,000. The county also will receive $300,000 in solar bond refunds, which it will receive on the bond’s remaining years.
Funding for capital planning has been increased by $500,000. The county was also hit by a $600,000 increase in state pension costs.
Commissioners Deputy Director Anthony Fasano said the budget prioritized defeating the Covid-19 pandemic while remaining fiscally responsible, providing services, and committing to the county’s future.
“Keeping Sussex County safe and affordable has to be the biggest priority, and I think this budget reflects that well,” he said. “I’m thankful for all the work that went into it.”
The county’s $33.1 million capital program is mostly for work on roads and bridges in 2021. More than 20 percent also goes for education and the library system. The library’s $6.3 million budget features a 0.99 percent increase.
Over the course of the 2020 pandemic year, Sussex County has increased its fund balance by $56,000.
“People really need to understand that if the county did not have conservative financial planning, we would not be in this position,” Commissioner Sylvia Petillo said.
Andover resident Ken Collins said it was refreshing to see the budget pursuing lower taxes, but wanted to emphasize that money could be saved by less spending on Sussex County Community College.
Over the past 12 years attendance at the college has dropped in half, he said, but the county keeps spending on new buildings and facilities.
“Numbers are constantly going down with no upward motion that I can see,” Collins said. “It’s irresponsible for the county to put money into the county college with fewer students to use it.”