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Dover's 2023 budget uses electricity fees, delayed infrastructure updates to balance inflation pressures

Milton Pratt
Delaware Public Media

Dover’s 2023 budget relies on an electricity fee increase and delaying some infrastructure upgrades to balance the city’s books.

The $194 million budget marks a roughly $30 million increase over the last year’s budget, covering both rising personnel costs – driven up in part by competition for scarce employees – and increasing prices for fuel, construction materials and other key resources.

Dover City Council has largely resisted tax increases to match rising operating and capital improvements costs; the council maintained that position this year, opting to scale back a proposed property tax increase and instead increase the cost of electrical service. City Manager David Hugg says the council made the decision to shift some of the burden to the nonprofits – including schools, churches and government offices – that take up a substantial portion of Dover’s properties.

“The concern of the council was to distribute the impact a little broader than simply putting it on the backs of the 60 to 70 percent of people who actually pay property taxes," he said.

Hugg adds Dover will also defer replacing some city vehicles for another year, though he says those vehicles – including some belonging to the city’s utilities and inspections departments – should have been replaced two or more years ago.

By far the largest expenses are Dover’s police and fire departments, which will make up a combined 41 percent of city spending in the coming year.

Hugg also notes Dover’s expanding footprint – driven by annexations – is driving up the city’s utility maintenance spending.

“You can’t avoid the fact that in past years, the city grew substantially," he said, "and as those areas have been developed, even though the developer puts in the infrastructure, once it’s under the city it becomes the city’s responsibility.”

Dover’s council also approved pay raises for themselves and for the city’s mayor.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.