Those of you following along with the State’s budget woes understand what has to happen in order for the $80+ million gap to be closed. Pretty much the same thing that Christina went through, either you raise revenue somehow or you obliterate your spending. So we have lawmakers scrambling to find money without overtly saying they’re going to raise your taxes (like public school districts are forced to do every 3-5 years).
The latest maneuver is to adjust the realty transfer tax. It’s currently 3% on all home sales in the State, split evenly between the State and the County or municipality the home is located in. The new proposal is to make that 2% to the State, 1% to the county/municipality. Kent and Sussex counties stand to lose the most from that deal as their smaller towns rely more heavily on the 1.5% the transfer tax affords them when a home is sold. I get that the State needs to find money, but what puzzles me is a quote from State Senator Karen Peterson, D-Stanton. She said
counties need to take more responsibility for reassessing their properties, claiming that some hadn’t done that for decades. “If they need a kick in the seat of the pants to get moving then let’s do this.
She’s right about the last time assessments were done. New Castle County did it in 1983, Kent and Sussex in the 70s. But if I follow correctly, she’s insinuating that counties should rely less on the State for their revenue (via taxes/fees like the transfer tax) and reassessing their properties would address that.
The State is $83 million short right now, presumably because they are not collecting enough taxes to meet their spending needs. There would be open revolt if the State attempted to directly raise taxes (see Markell’s gas tax, or eliminating the Senior Property Tax Credit). County reassessments would likely result in increased property taxes in all 3 counties. Kent and Sussex residents would get hit HARD. Think of all that new development happening down there.
And then Representative Melanie George Smith, D-Bear:
“We’ve assumed a lot of responsibilities back from the counties without charging them for it and so given that, this is the year we finally need to make those equal,”
Again, the State is $83 million short. Rep. George Smith is echoing Sen. Peterson. Both want to essentially pass the State’s budget shortfall onto the Counties which will, in turn, pass them on to their residents. In theory, the Counties would rely less on State funds and the State would reclaim some of its expenses. The State is positioning to indirectly raise taxes by having the Counties do the dirty work for them. They’re afraid to say these words: “We need to raise taxes.” and even more afraid to say who they really need to raise taxes on. Strike that, not everyone is afraid to say it. Rep. John Kowalko said it.
Keep kicking that can, Delaware.