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Economy

Rehoboth unveils $26 million budget

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Parking permit, water rates to increase

Rehoboth Beach officials could finalize the city's $26 million proposed 2016-17 budget as early as Wednesday, Feb. 10.

The commissioners will meet at 9 a.m, Feb. 10, at Rehoboth fire hall.

City Manager Sharon Lynn's budget calls for two major increases in revenue: parking permits and water fees.

Season-long parking permits would be raised by $50, from $200 to $250 for transferable hanging permits and $175 to $225 for nontransferable sticker permits. Lynn said these permit fees were not raised last year when other parking permit fees were raised. Parking-meter fees will not be increased this year.

Under Lynn's proposed budget, water rates would be increased from $1.67 per 1,000 gallons to $2.10 per 1,000 at nonpeak times and from $2.67 to $3.10 per 1,000 gallons during peak season, April 1 to Sept. 30.

She said water rates were last raised in 2012, and the extra revenue would go to pay for upgrades to the city's#water mains.

Water rates will also be increased for Dewey Beach residents, Lynn said, but rates were not yet available.

The budget calls for hiring a full-time city arborist and a receptionist at building and licensing, four full-time seasonal police officers for dispatch duties and two part-time seasonal employees in the parks department.

Mayor Sam Cooper and commissioners Stan Mills and Paul Kuhns all said they were happy with Lynn's budget and hope to finalize it at the Feb. 10 workshop. The commissioners have until Thursday, March 31, to approve the budget before it goes into effect Friday, April 1.

Of the increase in city personnel, Cooper said, "The cost of its employees is the city's largest expense, which is typical of government operations. Year to year, these costs go up; they never come down.

"It is important to me to only increase the number of employees when a clear need is demonstrated."

Mills added, "The potential exists to use temps or eliminate the position when or if the need recedes."

He said an example of using temporary labor is the proposed hiring of four additional seasonal officers to provide seven day per week dispatch assistance in the temporary police reception area as the full-time dispatchers have been relocated to the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center during construction of the new City Hall.

The budget includes $2.5 million in capital improvements. Major projects include $1.2 million to repair and lengthen stormwater outfalls at Virginia Avenue and Grenoble Place and $300,000 for furniture and fixtures for the new city hall. Cooper said the rest of the furniture and equipment costs will be paid out of next year's budget.

The city also plans to spend $295,000 to replace the remainder of the multispace parking meters on Rehoboth Avenue and $250,000 to continue repaving city streets. Cooper said the city will also spend $114,000 to rent nearly 500 single-space parking meters that will accept credit cards.

The city could continue to rent these meters in the future or purchase them, he said.

Although this year's budget will likely sail through with only the water and parking permit increases, Kuhns said starting with next year's budget, the city may have to look at additional revenues going forward to help pay for future projects such as potential overages on the City Hall project, maintenance, un-dergrounding power lines and improving city services.

Mills said in the future, he would like to see the return of Thursday night Bandstand events in the summer, funding for restoring the canal bank at the Rehoboth Beach Museum to its original landscape design and better maintenance of parks and garden areas.

"THE COST OF ITS EMPLOYEES IS THE CITY'S LARGEST EXPENSE, WHICH IS TYPICAL OF GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS. YEAR TO YEAR, THESE COSTS GO UP; THEY NEVER COME DOWN."

MAYOR SAM COOPER



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Original Publication Date: February 9, 2016



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