Rehoboth unveils $15.9 million budgetIT department funding draws Mills' criticism
Rehoboth Beach — Rehoboth Beach residents can expect no new taxes or parking meter increases based on the first draft of the city’s 2013-14 budget.
“My intent was to balance the budget without any increases, and I was able to do that,” City Manager Greg Ferrese said.
Among new expenses are two new full-time police officers.
Ferrese said at the Jan. 12 budget meeting the police positions have been open for the last three years, but the city had chosen not to fill them while the economy was lagging.
The budget also includes $100,000 in contingency funds, which Mayor Sam Cooper said could be used towards the city’s share of the proposed Silver Lake dredging project. While the state is likely to pay most of the dredging costs, Cooper said state officials would likely require a contribution from the city, although how much has yet to be determined.
Other expenses include a 25 percent increase in the total workman’s compensation budget, which comes on top of a 45 percent increase last year. Ferrese said the city had six major workman’s compensation claims, with several paying out at $60,000 or more. Ferrese said he budgeted the workman’s compensation total 25 percent higher to cover future large claims.
The city budgeted a combined $354,000 for worker’s compensation claims: the biggest allotments are for the police department at $120,000, Rehoboth Beach Patrol at $41,000, the wastewater department at $43,000 and building and grounds at $58,000.
On the revenue side, officials anticipate and increase in transfer tax revenue, reflecting the downturn in the housing market. For the last several years, the commissioners decreased budget estimates for transfer tax, . This year, the transfer tax revenue is $1.37 million while only $925,000 was budgeted. For 2013-14, Ferrese is budgeting just over $1 million.
Ferrese said the increased transfer-tax revenue shows the economy and the housing market are improving.
The budget includes $1.3 million for capital improvements; among the projects is $175,000 to paint the city’s fire hydrants, $146,000 to purchase a new trash vehicle and $100,000 for design work on a proposed upgrade to City Hall.
Commissioner Stan Mills and Patrick Gossett said they were pleased with Ferrese’s budget, which is balanced with no revenue increases. Mills also said he supports the capital improvement budget this year, but he questioned funding for the information technology department, whose director, Dave Henderson, retired.
Henderson had worked with the communications committee, which Mills chairs, on upgrades to the city’s website. Mills said new director Max Hamby wants to evaluate the site and provide input, which Mills supports.
The IT department is budgeted for only two full-time employees; previously, Mills said, Ferrese had budgeted a third person, but that position has been removed. Mills said that position should be reinstated in case an additional employee is needed for website upgrades.
The commissioners plan to discuss the IT department and the city website with Hamby at its Monday, Feb. 4 workshop.
Cooper said, “I think it’s very good that we can do all we have in there without raising taxes, sewer rates, water rates, all those things.”
Gossett said in addition to looking deeper at the IT department, he is preparing an analysis of the city’s loan obligations for projects such as the ocean outfall and the relocation of Schoolvue sewer lines. The city received loans from the state for both projects.
Cooper said while the budget will remain on subsequent agendas for discussion, there are no further budget meetings scheduled. The commissioners could approve the budget at the Friday, March 15 regular meeting. The 2013-14 budget goes into effect Monday, April 1.