City Council is considering a permanent income tax increase in order to keep “Moving Delaware Forward.”
The increase would be used for street maintenance and transportation improvements, as well as allocating local money to projects that would be supplemented by state and federal funding.
“Moving Delaware Forward is critical to maintaining Delaware’s streets and making them less congested, and ensuring our city remains attractive to new businesses and residents,” said Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle in a four-page handout.
Currently, the city spends about $1.92 million a year on transportation, and it resurfaces a little over a mile of its 80 miles of local streets (there’s 161 total miles of roadway). It costs $300,000 to $500,000 to repave a mile of road; and $4 million to $5 million to build a mile of road.
“At this rate the majority of streets will deteriorate to an unacceptable condition long before being included in a resurfacing program,” the city handout said. “Our ability to maintain the current transportation system is not sustainable, given funding levels.”
If approved by council, a levy would be placed on the November ballot to raise the city’s income tax rate from 1.85 percent to 2 percent. The city notes that in a decade, a voter-approved parks improvement levy would expire, which would lower the income tax rate back to 1.85 percent.
“For a family household income of $50,000 a year, the new rate would cost about $75 additionally per year, or roughly $6 per month,” states the handout.
The city said the levy would generate about $2.2 million annually, which would be combined with current spending so that $4.12 million would be spent yearly on transportation.
A number of projects have already been identified as priorities, including:
• Street maintenance, with the levy quadrupling the amount of money allocated to resurfacing neighborhood streets to $800,000 a year, starting in 2017.
• Valleyside Drive extension, a $5 million local project that links William Street and Central Avenue to reduce delays, with construction scheduled in 2018.
• Merrick Boulevard extension, a $2.4 million local project that connects to Troy Road for west- and north-side residents, to be built in 2019.
• Intersection of William and Curtis streets, a $750,00 local project to be completed in 2020.
• Traffic signal improvements, a $1.8 million project, with $300,000 from the levy, to update a 15-year-old system, which would be completed in 2021.
• Troy Road realignment, a $1.2 million local project, with a completion date of 2021.
• The Point, an $18 million project, with $3.6 million from the levy, that adds lanes under a new railway structure to reduce congestion, with construction in 2021.
• Stratford Road/U.S. 23 connector, a $2.7 million project, with $2.2 million from the levy, to be built in 2022.
• East Central Avenue widening, an $8.6 million project, with $1.5 million from the levy, with a construction date of 2024.
An unspecified amount would be used for other improvements, including upgrading street lights and crash barriers; and increasing parking capacity.
Public input is being sought before council makes any decision.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.