Sussex County finances rosy, thanks to realty transfer tax

Finance director to recommend $12M to towns, land acquisition

By Glenn Rolfe
Posted 1/15/22

GEORGETOWN — Once again, there’s good news on Sussex County’s financial front. And local municipalities may reap some of the dividends.

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Sussex County finances rosy, thanks to realty transfer tax

Finance director to recommend $12M to towns, land acquisition

Posted

GEORGETOWN — Once again, there’s good news on Sussex County’s financial front. And local municipalities may reap some of the dividends.

County budget expenses for fiscal year 2022 are down, and revenues driven by realty transfer taxes are up, precipitating a budget amendment request from Gina Jennings, the county’s finance director and chief operating officer.

Ms. Jennings’ recommendation, announced during County Council’s Tuesday meeting, would be to spend $12 million — $6.4 million going to towns and the remainder toward land acquisition for open space.

She said she plans to outline the initiative in more detail at council’s next meeting Jan. 25 and introduce a budget amendment for council’s consideration to spend the extra realty transfer tax.

“Please bring that back to us,” said County Council president Michael Vincent.

Money allocated to towns would be designated for expenses allowed via realty transfer taxes, including capital/operating costs for public safety services, economic-development programs, public works capital projects, infrastructure improvements and debt reduction.

According to Ms. Jennings, for the first quarter, the county’s general fund expenses were under budget by $2 million, but revenues were over $10 million, all due to the realty transfer tax.

“As we are ending the second quarter, our expenses are still under budget, and our revenues are still over budget, because of realty transfer tax,” she said.

Ms. Jennings had “conservatively” budgeted $24,900,000 in realty transfer tax for fiscal year 2022.

Last year, the county also experienced a substantial windfall in the tax. Through a budget amendment, additional funding in 2021 included $5,375,000 for fire/ambulance services, $3 million for the ExciteSussex Fund loan program and $1 million for land acquisition for emergency medical services stations.

Real estate transfer taxes are charged when property changes hands. Transfer taxes in Delaware are 4% of the purchase price of the property, with 2.5% going to the state and 1.5% going to the county.