Milton plans future growth through charter changes
Milton City Council is planning for the future growth and protection of the city’s infrastructure through a series of charter changes.
The changes were all approved by City Council and handed over to the General Assembly. The measures have not been officially introduced, but are sponsored by Senator Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes and Representative Steve Smyk, R-Milton, who represent the Milton area.
The final part of the package, unanimously approved at the April 19 council meeting, sets up a mechanism for large package developments to pay a special tax to help fund additional police and municipal workers who would be needed to sustain development.
Mayor Ted Kanakos said the change was in part a response to the potential annexation and development of 400 acres of land between Sand Hill Road and Highway 30. Although no plan has yet been filed, Kanakos said there was talk of a development project that would add 1,400 homes in 20 years. Kanakos said if this plan comes to fruition, the development will double Milton’s size.
In order to manage this potential growth, Executive Director Kristy Rogers said this charter change would provide a system that would not impact current residents. While a developer would have to pay for physical infrastructure, such as roads, sidewalks and water hookups, Kanakos said the charter change would allow the city to implement a tax to cover the cost of the expenses. additional that it would entail. Kanakos said any potential development is years away, but this change would allow the city to be better prepared for potential impacts.
The Delaware Code covers what is known as incremental municipal tax funding and the creation of special development districts. These are two interrelated concepts that, in a nutshell, give municipalities the power to levy additional taxes on large developments in order to pay for the additional infrastructure needed to serve them. The state code authorizes the financing of tax increases and the implementation of special development districts by municipalities with more than 35,000 inhabitants. However, the General Assembly previously granted the same authority to towns with smaller populations, such as Dover, Lewes, Bridgeville, Millsboro and Millville.
At the April 19 council meeting, attorney John Stalfort, a legal expert in creating special tax districts, explained that the process would start with the city designating the district and issuing special bond bonds. Stalfort said these bonds are sold to individual investors and with the proceeds from their sale the city is able to pay for the necessary improvements. He said the bonds would not be backed by the city’s full faith and credit. Instead, the money to pay the debt service on these bonds would come from special development taxes. The result of this, Stalfort said, is that if the city needed to borrow money for other projects, its credit would not be affected. He said the city’s financial obligations for development would be covered by the money raised through the bond issuance, not the city’s general fund.
Regarding the potential drawbacks, Stalfort said that while interest on bonds is tax exempt, the interest rate is higher than that of a general bond, which would be used to pay for a large project. city capital improvement, because the obligations in this particular case, are not backed by the full faith and credit of the city. Another is that the special tax district disappears over time, usually over a period of 25 to 30 years, regardless of the length of the bonds.
The city seeks to protect the water system
A second charter change in the package, already approved by council on March 23, would require any future mayor or council seeking to sell the city’s water system to put it to a referendum.
The charter amendment would institute a two-step process. First, the board should have a supermajority – two-thirds of the board members – voting yes to plan a referendum. Then the question would be put to the voters.
Kanakos said the change was proposed in light of a number of factors, including the city’s recent investments in its water infrastructure, attempts by former officials to sell the water system and the sale of the water system. city wastewater treatment plant in Tidewater in 2007.
“We are putting in place a system of checks and balances,” he said.
Two minor changes included in the package will reduce the time the city has to review requested annexations from 120 days to 90 days.
The city would maintain the same annexation process: an application would go through the city council, which would appoint a special committee to review the application and determine the pros and cons of annexation. Then the committee would have 90 days to report back to the board, not 120 days.
The final change would allow the city to skip a referendum for capital improvement projects when the city borrows money but receives a 100% loan rebate.
The logic here matches recent experience: the city had to go to the referendum on a $ 1.6 million water pipe improvement project in January where Milton receives state money. , but simply has to make interest payments during construction, with the entire loan forfeited once the project is complete. Although it looks more like a grant, it was technically a loan and, according to the city code, it was subject to a referendum. The January referendum was approved with almost 100% of favorable votes, 341-4.
Lopez said of the proposed changes: “Steve and I are more than happy to support these changes to the City of Milton charter to bring more clarity and efficiency to the way the city governs. Although the bill was introduced by the city, these residents are also our constituents, and we are grateful to offer the necessary legislative support to make this improvement and will ensure that the bill is passed with full support. from our colleagues in both chambers. before June 30. “