— It was a tough-sell Friday night for the Dewey Beach Budget and Finance Committee as members proposed to town officials a municipal property tax – something Dewey does not currently have.
Just one of the five town commissioners, Jim Laird, backed the plan. The mayor and the rest of the commission had strong reservations.
But former town commissioner Marc Appelbaum may have captured the moment best when he suggested that Dewey residents and property owners had come to expect certain lifestyle standards: among them that dogs are still allowed on the beach and that they live in the only municipality in the state without a property tax.
“You all need to hear other options and other alternatives,” he said. “Before we make a change this significant, a lot more input and alternatives are needed.”
What Budget and Finance Committee Chair Dave King recommended Friday was a plan that included an 80-cent per $100 of assessed value property tax, along with some increases in fees charged to area businesses. He recommended town commissioners hold a series of hearings on the proposal with a goal of putting it to a public referendum in September.
The proposal was recommended as a way to bring a stable source of revenue to the town.
Right now, the major income sources are from real estate transfer fees, tickets and fines, and permits and licenses. Each, according to King, is subject to unpredictable fluctuations.
For instance up until the economic downturn, so much real estate was changing hands in the town that the municipality built up a $2 million surplus. But now that times are leaner, that surplus has dwindled to about $250,000, he said.