Lewes Approves Fiscal Year 2023 Budget

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It will cost a little more to park in Lewes this summer, as the mayor and city council approved a 50-cent increase in hourly rates for parking downtown and at the beaches.

The increase to $1.50 per hour downtown and $2.50 per hour at the beach was incorporated into the fiscal year 2023 budget approved by the board on March 21.

Paid parking is in effect from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. from May 1 to October 14.

The price hike is expected to generate $287,000 in additional revenue for the city. Meter rates were last increased at the beach in 2017 and downtown in 2014.

Deputy Mayor Andrew Williams asked council to revisit the parking discussion when the city approaches its budget for the year. If the city doesn’t need the over-budget money, he said the city should consider turning off the meters for late-season relief.

Lewes’ fiscal year 2023 budget is just under $14 million, including $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds that have yet to be allocated. The fiscal year 2022 budget was adopted at $9.57 million and later amended to $11.13 million.

In addition to meter increases, the 2023 budget changed the way residential building permit fees are calculated. Starting April 1, a permit for new homes and renovations will be 1.5% of the actual cost of construction. The change is expected to generate $210,000 in additional revenue.

“Where we’re looking to put rate increases reflects the growth of the community,” Williams said. “Growth has a cost. It won’t be a tax this time, but it may be in the future. Right now we’re looking to target where we’ve seen growth coming our way.

The city last raised property taxes in 2010.

The city adopted a new wage matrix for all non-union employees, bringing the minimum hourly wage for employees to $16. A 5% increase for employees was factored into each employee’s location in the matrix.

“Growth has a cost, but so does scarcity,” said city councilor Khalil Saliba, noting that all industries in the country are suffering from labor shortages. “We wanted to make sure [our employees] felt valued in this very, very tight job market.

The council is still negotiating a new contract with the city’s police department. The budget will be modified once an agreement is reached.

The implementation of a new public transport system called Lewes Line is included in the budget. The estimated cost of the pilot program is $157,000, which will pay for eight drivers, uniforms, vehicle maintenance, vehicle preparation, insurance and fuel. The plan is to run two buses on a prescribed route with nine daily stops from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. from the week before Memorial Day through September 30.

Some major projects underway for the next fiscal year include improvements to Railroad Avenue ($615,000), renovation of Fourth Street and Marina Drive ($100,000), lighting of the two beach parking lots ($300,000) , Police Department Renovations ($100,000), Canalfront Park Tennis Court Improvements ($83,000), Otis Smith Park Parking Lot Improvements ($132,000), Schley Avenue Parking Lot Improvements ($121,000) $000), continuation of wayfinding project ($157,000) and improvements to Canalfront Park ($490,000).

The Council has also pledged to purchase three additional police cars as part of a plan to implement a take-home scheme. It will take approximately 32 weeks for the vehicles to be delivered.

In total, the fiscal year 2023 budget includes the purchase of five police vehicles — two ordered last year and three more this year — at a cost of $65,000 per car. One of these five vehicles would replace an older vehicle, while the others are additions to the fleet.

The budget calls for using $62,000 of reserve funds to balance the books; however, Mayor Ted Becker noted that the city ended the last two fiscal years with a surplus of over $400,000.

Fisher’s Cove Expenses

After the budget was passed, Rodney Avenue resident Rick Spitzborg asked council about the funds that will be used in the settlement agreement with Fisher’s Cove developer Burke and Rutecki LLC.

The agreement, which the council voted unanimously to approve on March 2, states that the city will purchase land in the development for $500,000, contribute $40,000 towards the cost of a building entry and possibly pay be $60,000 for an access easement.

“The details of the effect of the deal as it’s going to apply to the budget haven’t really been provided to taxpayers in Lewes,” Spitzborg said. “It’s a significant amount of money, and there’s a lot of interest in it. While I applaud [mayor and city council’s] the intention to obtain public comments on the budget, [it] will not have benefited from informed public comment until this additional information is provided to all.

City attorney Glenn Mandalas said there was an insurance component to the settlement, and he expects some of the costs to be covered. He said much of the remaining funds would likely come from the city’s $600,000 legal post.

“With an operation the size of the city of Lewes, we cannot anticipate everything that is going to happen; we can’t always anticipate the litigation that’s going to happen,” he said.

City Manager Ann Marie Townshend said a settlement date for the town’s land in the development was still not known. She said it may depend on how quickly the lots sell out. She noted that some of the funds for expenses related to Fisher’s Cove could also come from capital accounts.

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