The Sussex County Commissioners on March 24 unanimously introduced their budget for the 2021 fiscal year.
The county’s $115.1 million spending plan calls for a tax levy of $97.4 million, a 1.91 percent decrease from the 2020 tax levy.
“This budget is rooted in financial reality,” Commissioners Deputy Director Anthony Fasano said. “It commits to financial responsibility and it provides for the needs of Sussex County.
County residents will have an opportunity to sound off on the budget at the commissioners’ April 28 meeting at 6 p.m.
Newton resident Alex Majewski said he was happy to see the tax decrease, which he called significantly less than 2020.
County Administrator Gregory Poff II said on March 10 that the budget is about $2.2 million less than the approved budget.
The most notable decreases in the budget is a $1.08 million in insurance and a significant decrease in debt costs, down to $989,000. The county also will receive $300,000 in solar bond refunds, which they will receive on the bond’s remaining years.
Capital planning funding has been increased by $500,000 and the county was hit by $600,000 in increased state pension costs.
“I am so pleased that in the midst of all of that, we can keep a budget under 1 percent,” Commissioner Sylvia Petillo said. “That budget keeps all of our services and all of our resources in place when our residents and businesses need them most.”
The county’s 2021 $33.1 million capital program is mostly work on roads and bridges. More than 20 percent also goes for education and library. The county library budget of about $6.3 million features a 0.99 percent increase.
Over the course of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic year, Sussex County has increased its fund balance by $56,000.
“I think it’s a very good budget,” Commissioner Chris Carney said. “We have a pandemic going on and people have to understand that.”
Andover resident Kenneth Collins said it was refreshing to see the budget coming in lower, instead of higher, but said the county needs to spend less money on Sussex County Community College, which has lost half its enrollment since 2009.
“Something has to be done at the county level,” Collins said. “You can’t go with this ‘build it or they will come’ mentality.”
“I am so pleased that in the midst of all of that, we can keep a budget under 1 percent. That budget keeps all of our services and all of our resources in place when our residents and businesses need them most.” Commissioner Sylvia Petillo