No     So I am sure many are wondering what SCAG stands for.   Well in the dictionary scag can mean “a tear in a garment, or a piece of cloth”, it also can mean in tech terms, “to destroy the data on a disk, either by corrupting the file system or by causing media damage”.  Scag is also slang for heroin.

And while all of these in some way relate to my use of the acronym SCAG, in this case, SCAG stands for “Sussex Countians Against Growth.

You see, here in Sussex County, there is a growing, and possibly the only thing growing, trend of people coming out in opposition to all things growth related.

It doesn’t matter whether it is a chicken plant in Millsboro, an upscale town center outside of Lewes, the expansion of Sussex Tech, a long time business owner in Rehoboth wanting to expand, it just doesn’t matter anymore.

No matter what is proposed in the way of growth, like RV parks in Angola or new schools on Rt. 24, some small vocal group will organize in their free time, which it seems they have plenty of, and complain about the traffic, the noise, the traffic, the smell, the traffic, the environmental impact, the traffic, the cost, the traffic, the traffic, and the traffic.  Oh and I forgot the new catch-all, that whatever the proposal is, it doesn’t fit the current characteristics of the area.

Because you wouldn’t want RVs parked next to your 1960s single-wide trailer, might make it look bad. You wouldn’t want an existing bar and restaurant in Rehoboth to become a larger bar and restaurant in Rehoboth, surrounded by, oh I don’t know, other bars and restaurants.

We certainly wouldn’t want to build a shopping center that might attract more people to come here and shop from those very same states that you moved here from. We wouldn’t want to allow the number one industry within the state and county to build operate a plant that would have created 700 actual plant jobs and supported unknown numbers of jobs on the periphery.

And heaven forbid that we actually reward positive results like actually educating our children by allowing that school to expand the enrollment numbers to allow more students a chance to share in that opportunity, oh heck no!

No what we need here in Sussex is more small-minded, penny-pinching, isolationist who want only to sit and watch their grass grow until the Hispanic men come by to cut it.

About the only thing that the members of SCAG are in favor of building are doctor’s offices and hospitals, gee wonder why that would be?

Many of the members of SCAG have moved here from surrounding states in which the taxes were extremely high, they moved to Sussex for our low taxes. Yet they still expect good roads and all of the conveniences they were accustomed to in their former states, but at a reduced cost, and don’t forget, no growth beyond the developments that they moved into.

One little problem for the members of SCAG, if they moved here for the lower taxes, and then expect to close off all growth, they are doomed to repeat what happened in their previous states.

You see, without new developments there will be far less revenue from the transfer tax, that transfer tax is the life blood of Sussex County. Also without expanding sewer areas then the cost to the existing ones will steadily climb. Without new job opportunities, then fewer people will move here and more will leave, except for retirees.

What they may not understand is that without an expanding tax base, then the level of taxation goes up, because cost go up, demand for services go up, everything goes up.

So as SCAG gains members and continues to stifle growth, they are dooming themselves, and the rest of us to higher taxes. Every time they defeat a new development, or defeat a project, or force a business to look elsewhere, they are raising your taxes and fees.

Don’t believe me? Delaware also relies on revenue from the transfer taxes, and revenue from jobs and development. So when the counties take in less, so does the state.

The Sussex County Council is currently considering the new budget, and it has been reported that property taxes will again NOT be raised. Well that is great isn’t it? Oh but wait, it was also reported that sewer cost, or as some like to call it, the sewer tax will be increased. CRAP! (Pun intended.)

The General Assembly in Dover is also attempting to find new revenue to cover the cost for the state, of course the idea of cutting is never popular, though often talked about. It has been proposed to raise many state fees, oh there I go again, taxes for registering motor vehicles, for title transfers, and many other DMV services, and the idea of a gas tax is not yet off the table.

You see, when government cannot make the cuts to balance the budget, and they cannot “RAISE” taxes, then they raise “FEES”, which are just taxes on services that the government first had to mandate.

These fees actually further retard growth. If a company with a fleet of vehicles has to pay more to register all of its vehicles, then it may not be able to buy more, or newer vehicles, this then hurts car dealers, if car dealers are selling fewer cars then there will be fewer title transfers, and fewer truck drivers needed to deliver the new cars.

Nothing is created in a vacuum. Recently Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkof went to bat for the increase of the gasoline tax. His argument was that there are millions of tourist who come to Sussex every summer, and the last thing they do before leaving is to back up to a gas pump and fill up their tanks. He stated that we could raise much of the needed infrastructure money from the gas tax on the gas that the tourist buy.

Well doesn’t that sound like a great idea? Problem is Rep. Schwartzkof, while those tourist may buy a single tank of gas a year here in Delaware, your gas tax would greatly impact Delawareans who buy gas here year round, especially small businesses. I am not sure if this is just short sightedness, or purposeful misleading of the people who are not paying close enough attention.

It has gotten so bad, that the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce has gotten on board with the raising of the DMV taxes. Here is a letter recently released,

The Honorable Peter Schwartzkopf, Speaker
The Honorable Valerie Longhurst, House Majority Leader
The Honorable Jon Viola, House Majority Whip
Legislative Hall
Dover, DE 19901

RE: Transportation Package Legislation

Dear Legislators:

I am writing on behalf of the Board and Members of the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce (CDCC), to offer our support for the proposed legislation (HB140) that will help support transportation infrastructure within our State.

The current package as we understand it seeks $50 million in user fee increases through DMV, matched by $50 million in additional Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) borrowing while continuing the trend to reduce debt service payments. The package also includes $10 million in DELDOT operating expenses be transferred back to the TTF.

As with most Chambers, we are not inclined towards increasing taxes and fees upon our small and large business owners, and therefore offer some additional issues that should be part of this discussion and vote as it moves forward:

• The legislation must mandate that the funds collected through the DMV go directly into the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF);
• That a 4 year Sunset Provision be placed on the DMV increases to allow for a review of the need and impact to the TTF;
• Benchmarks created such that an additional $10million a year for the next four years (a total of $50mm) are taken out of the operating budget of DelDOT and placed into the TTF;
• Restructure the Prevailing Wage survey process to create a true wage for Delaware;
• Allow our municipalities or counties to create their own “Right to Work” zones;
• The State’s General Fund Operating Budget held to 3% increase for FY’16.

We thank you for your leadership and willingness to work towards solutions to some difficult and vexing infrastructure issues that have faced Delaware for years. We also recognize increasing fees for those that use our roads and bridges is an appropriate place to begin these financing efforts.

We, as the CDCC, are here and ready to support your efforts.


Judy Diogo
President, CDCC

And while this letter also attempts to make suggestions about prevailing wages and how to distribute the money raised, and even suggest a sunset clause, (now that is funny), the message this sends, and the one that will be used to justify raising these taxes, is that the CDCC  is in favor of these increases.

So you see what happens when growth is allowed to stagnate because legislators are too lazy to find ways to grow, and to cowardly to make the needed cuts in hard times, or to actually spend the money where it truly is needed and where results are positive, or if growth is stifled by the people themselves out of  selfishness, then taxes will rise, services will suffer, people will leave, and the cycle will simply spiral downward.

So for all of the people who moved here for lower taxes, welcome and thank you. But if you insist on blocking all growth beyond doctors and hospitals, then it won’t be long before you and many others will be moving again, maybe you could go to Florida.

But for those of us who were born in Delaware, or who moved here for the opportunities it offered, we have a longer view of things beyond retirement. We need jobs for our children, and schools, and places to occupy our leisure time as well. Time to pay it forward folks.

16 Comments on "SCAG !"

  1. Pat Fish says:

    So I will risk being labelled a suckup but Frank, every word of the above is TRUE, TRUE, TRUE.

    My husband, God bless his departed soul, was one of those NIMBY (not in my back yard) people and he infuriated me at times.

    They get THEIR home, THEIR pension or SS check….and boom…..NO SOUP FOR YOU!

    (inside joke for the wiser).

    What’s even worse, our county council tends to reward these people, especially Joan Deaver. Although they’re getting better what with me watching them and everything.

    Really good article…..I’m gonna say it even the snarks don’t like it.

  2. fightingbluehen says:

    For the past thirty years, the Sussex County Council has been famous for rubber stamping any and all applications for development in Eastern Sussex County, without any regard for future problems concerning traffic congestion.

    I’m glad that they are finally stopping to at least think about it now.

    BTW, Frank. It’s not all Hispanics out there cutting grass. Some Americans will do the jobs that they say we won’t do.

  3. waterpirate says:

    HB 138!!!

  4. delacrat says:

    “About the only thing that the members of SCAG are in favor of building are doctor’s offices and hospitals, gee wonder why that would be?” – Frank


    Perhaps the “small-minded, penny-pinching, isolationist[s]” need healthcare, instead of a spending mall, which you euphemistically call an “upscale town center”.

    Or maybe, ….just maybe…. those “small-minded, penny-pinching, isolationist[s]” are actually the parents of Sussex Tech students who envision careers in a hospital, as opposed to hawking Cinnabons at “an upscale town center” or pulling guts out a chickens ass in a poultry processing plant.

  5. Honi Soit says:

    Frank: I wonder if you have any thoughts on the fairness of the County tax policy? Here are comparative examples taken from the county tax records:

    Example 1: In December 2013, a couple bought a new home in the Senators development just outside of Lewes for $500K. Their tax bill in 2014 was $1,832.

    Example 2: Also in December 2013, a couple bought a home in North Shores just outside of Rehoboth for $1.1 million. Their tax bill in 2014 was $1,449. Hundreds less than Example 1.

    Example 3: Again in December 2013, the couple that bought in North Shores sold their mansion between the ocean and Silver Lake on E Lake Dr for $7.7 million. The new owner has a tax bill of $5,549.

    I can’t see any connection between sales prices and assessed values of property. If there were and if you used the couple in Example 1 as a baseline ($1,882 in taxes for every $500K paid for a property), then the couple in Example 2 would have a tax bill north of $3,700 instead of $1,832. And the owner in Example 3 would have a tax bill north of $14,000 instead of $5,549.

    (BTW: If you’ve guessed who Example 2 is, then you might suggest that the hat-passing, cash-starved folks at SCGOP pay him a visit. They know him well. After all, he used to preside over their meetings.)

  6. waterpirate says:

    No tax system is without its flaws and loop holes. What most of us object to in the case of ST is that we are being taxed without community representation. ST also is having a identity crisis and has a total lack of respect for the authority which governs it. A petulant teenager comes to mind. As with a petulant teenager, they have been put on notice, and with the help of the legislature more changes are forthcoming.

    The rest of Franks SCAG argument is just pissing and moaning about trying to prevent the inevitable, change.

    Adapt and be happy or go the way of the dinosaur.

  7. Honi Soit says:

    WP: I understand your peeve about ST. Yes I do. And I know that the VAST majority of our county taxes go to education–though most tax dollars go to K-12 districts–but NOT to community colleges. We’re talking here about 91% of the total bill. The County collect it but it’s just pass-through. The remaining 9% of the pie goes into the County coffers. For folks like me and Frank, the hare that the County keeps is less than $100 a year.

    The issue I have is that the County’s budget relies to a huge and unhealthy extent on transfer taxes. George Cole has made this point again and again–to deaf ears. Except maybe Joan Deaver’s ears, I suppose. Certainly to Sam Wilson’s. (His deafness is thought to be congenital. I do pity him. No I don;t.)

    But if Council were to stop simply rubber-stamping any and every project that comes before it, then it would need to 1] find new revenue streams or 2] increase existing ones or 3] cut its “services,” which already are very much on the lean side. I can see no obvious solution to the current approach except to consider changes in property taxes.

    But Council won’t look at property taxes because they won’t be the first Council to raise property taxes in 25 years…even though this can be done without placing an additional burden on folks with limited financial resources.

    And so at least for quite a while longer, we can expect to see that Glen and Angela Urquhart will be paying less per annum* in taxes for their million-dollar home in North Shores than my friends at Senators are paying for their home that cost half that. And the CEO of Applied Bank will be paying just $5,500 for his $7.7 million home that faces both the ocean and Silver Lake.

    *Note to Pat Fish: That’s Latin for “yearly.”

  8. waterpirate says:

    Let me clarify my position here. I DO NOT oppose a raise in taxes to support infrastructure and education, as long as it is applied fairly to all. I am a big fan of the flat tax for income. The in equalities in the assessed value we pay on, and the actual value, v.s the transfer tax here in SC need a serious look that is long overdue. We need a council with the fortitude to get it done.

    I ranted on ST because it is another tax system that desperately needs to have a serious look, and a legislature with the fortitude to get it done, and spank the parties responsible for the current mess they created.

  9. Frank Knotts says:

    WP, the only mess created was in allowing more students the chance at the quality education Tech offers. But to not get this post too far off track, there is still a lively Tech conversation on the HB 100 thread where you will find your self aligned with Pandora.
    As for the “UNFAIRNESS” of the applied property taxes, careful what you ask for. Reassessment is the answer, and the statement that it can be done without ” placing an additional burden on folks with limited financial resources.”, does not sound much like “FAIRNESS” to me. It sounds like wealth redistribution.
    Not sure why making it personal about one person or another is relevant, beyond class warfare, not into it myself.
    Also WP, you called the Over Brook project a spending mall, uh doesn’t spending equal revenue? Just saying friend.

  10. waterpirate says:

    I made no such mention of the Overbrook project, and in my opinion it should be green lighted if the developer pays for the access road and or overpass required by deldot, not us tax payers. Your opinion about ST as well as mine are well stated and need no more bandwidth.
    As for a new tax assessment??? It is long overdue and if people with limited means can not afford to pay the taxes on the properties they own, it is no different then not being able to pay any other creditor. Fixed income does not = free ride in my book. There are already a plethora of exemptions and hardship waivers for those who do truly qualify

  11. Honi Soit says:

    Frank, I try my best to be careful about what I wish for. That my wish might have unintended and undesirable consequences doesn’t prevent me from wishing for something better than what we’ve got. But one thing I do know: People who offer up that that advice usually are simply advocating for the status quo.

  12. Frank Knotts says:

    WP, please accept my apologies, it was Delacrat that made that statement. I have been having multiple conversations on multiple threads today. And I am glad the we can still find agreement on other issues such as Over Brook and taxes.
    Honi, making a statement of caution should not equate to status quo, as WP has stated, if taxes are raised across the board equally, then that is one thing, but if it is suggested in the same statement that to make it fair we must raise taxes on the rich and excuse the less fortunate, well that is not fair, nor equal protection under the law, it is as I said, wealth redistribution.

  13. Honi Soit says:

    Frank, Sorry that I was unclear. My bad. I’m not suggesting that property taxes be based on an individual’s net worth! Instead I think it should be based of the market value of a property and its comps. And that’s where tax policy comes up short in Sussex.

  14. waterpirate says:

    Market value is a moving target. That is why we have assessed value that is less than market to allow for fluctuations in the market. The assessed value DOES need to be revisited and elevated to keep up with this century. Maybe we could asses based on a percentage less than market?

  15. Frank Knotts says:

    WP, neither for or against but I have been told that the cost of reassessment is prohibitive not to mention politically unpopular.

  16. mouse says:

    It’s important that wealthy cheapskate retirees be able to move here to avoid paying property taxes in the surrounding states and they they can drive up real estate cost and infrastructure needs so that local working people can’t afford any of it. It’s only fair capitalism when money is redistributed from average people to the wealthy

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