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Growth initiatives require communities to be ready when opportunity knocks

Editorial from the Delaware Business Times

Many factors must be considered when creating an environment that enables the economic health of an area like Sussex County to flourish.

Almost a year ago, the Sussex Economic Development Action Committee made a couple of suggestions that went to the heart of our efforts to create opportunities for Sussex County to grow properly. One of those ideas was a method for growth that would allow it to pay for itself, a so-called growth fund to pay for infrastructure. I know the idea had merit as I was asked to speak to both Democratic and Republican organizations. Time marches on, yet nothing has happened with this positive idea. The success in both Middletown and Bridgeville can be attributed to communities that understood that one must be ready when opportunity knocks.

Infrastructure was built and put in place to answer the call when it came. If you are ready, that call will come. Millsboro has taken steps to be ready when its time comes, as testified by the number of success stories already in place. Creating a growth fund from revenues tied to existing growth is one idea worthy of exploration before dismissing it.

High taxes are never conducive to economic development. Sussex County Council, since 1973, has maintained a low tax rate while continuing to fund all services required by the law. Back in 1973, property taxes in the county were responsible for funding 79% of the county’s budget; by the early 1980s, that number had dropped to 29% and that was without a transfer tax. The county continues to this day to avoid the use of property taxes as the main source of its revenue. But there are clouds on the horizon. A court challenge to the county’s assessment methods has been filed and all indications are that the court will move to require that all three counties do a reassessment. Assessments for tax purposes are supposed to be fair for every property owner. The court appears to think that they are not. We do not agree. Let us suggest some points that are not being made. Why am I comfortable doing this? I did the last county reassessment.


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