Sussex County Delaware

Council Drops Farm
Credit from Agenda

 
Sussex County Council ...

Hears Concerns About Lack
of Action on Police Plans

GEORGETOWN -- Sussex County Council removed a property tax relief proposal for farmers from the agenda and heard complaints from a former U.S. Congressional candidate about a lack of police protection in the county at its Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2001 meeting.

The proposed exemption on property taxes on active farm buildings was dropped from the agenda due to a lack of a consensus on how to implement such an idea.

In previous weeks, council discussed everything from a property tax exempton on all active farming buildings to exemptions only on active chicken houses to exemptions on all outbuildings in the county including residential sheds.

The idea was proposed by Councilman Vance Phillips, who felt the exemption would offer some relief for farmers battling tough times caused by low commodity prices and in the process help preserve farmland and farms.

Opponents to the measure, led by Councilman George Cole and Council President Dale Dukes, said the measure wouldn't provide enough relief to make a difference for farmers and that the county's property taxes are already low enough.

County financial officials estimated the exemption would have allowed the county's farmers to keep about $250,000 of their money, or a couple of hundred dollars per year per farmer.

Council did hear from Mike Miller, a resident of Jimtown who questioned why council had not yet acted on proposals from Sen. George H. Bunting Jr. and Sussex County Sheriff Robert Reed to provide more police protection in the county's unincorporated areas.

Miller, who ran against incumbent U.S. Congressman Michael N. Castle in the November 2000 election, said the county's citizens need help in the war on drugs.

Sen. Bunting's proposal called for council to pay for 20 additional state troopers to concentrate on drug enforcement efforts, while Sheriff Reed's proposal called for an expansion of his department into a county police force with 32 officers who would focus on community policing, traffic law enforcement, and drug enforcement.

Miller said Councilman Cole's comments in newspaper articles that the county's drug problems are occuring in traditional communities outside municipalities and not in the county's coastal zones showed a lack of sensitivity to county minorities.

Councilman Cole accused Miller of taking a cheap shot at him by "trying to turn this into some kind of racial issue."

Miller also complained that council had spent more time in recent weeks discussing the farm tax credit proposal than the police issue.

Miller further said the county could afford to do more given its multi-million dollar budget surpluses, but County Adminstrator Robert L. Stickels said the realty transfer tax that created the surplus, along with property tax revenue, are not enough to cover the costs of increased service requests from county residents.

"You can not cure everybody's ills with a property tax," said Stickels.

Council President Dukes, responding to Stickels' reference to Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's request that the state police cut $1 million from its budget next year, said, "The county can not pick up everything the state's cutting back."

Dukes added, however, that council has not scrapped Sen. Bunting's idea and "We realize there is a need."

No Meeting March 6

Council will not meet on Tuesday, March 6, as council members and staff will attend the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. The next council meeting will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 13.


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