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The first mention of a county treasurer in Delaware is found in the laws drawn up by William Penn for his new province. In 1682, he nominated qualified judges and treasurers for his new proprietary, and it was further arranged that the treasurers should receive fees for warrants, receive and pay public monies, and register all acquittance. The justices levied the taxes and provided the collectors, while periodically the monies gathered by the collectors were to be turned over to the treasurer, who in turn turned them over to the governor.1

In 1696, the assessors, six for each county, appointed a treasurer for their respective counties, and require him to maintain a book containing the accounts of all rates and assessments, as well as disbursements and payments.2

The official known as the receiver of taxes and county treasurer came into existence in New Castle County with the passing of a law in 1752. The justices, eight jurymen and the assessors were to appoint one good and substantial freeholder in each county to be their treasurer for a term of three years.3

The treasurers continued to be appointed until 1892, when the office became elective for a term of four years.4 The duties did not materially change, however, when the post became elective. The receiver was custodian of all county funds, and as such was notified by the recorder of all transfers of real estate,5 as well as receiving all county poor and road taxes.6 Accounts of receipts and disbursements were to be kept separately and the funds used to discharge all allowances of the Levy Court.7

The county treasurer also collected state taxes within his jurisdiction on warrants from the State treasurer.8 County officers were required to file verifiable accounts of all fees and allowances with the treasurer.9 The treasurer was responsible for paying all witnesses and jury fees.10 He collected fees for vital statistics;11 the wages of escaped prisoners;12 all fines and forfeitures;13 and fees from fire insurance companies, which were then turned over to the county fire companies for aid toward their maintenance.14 He also paid mothers’ pensions on warrants drawn by the Old Age Welfare Commission,15 as well as the traveling expenses of the Levy Court and deputies.16

The Legislature in 1915 combined the offices of Sussex County Treasurer and Sussex County collector of taxes into an office of Receiver of Taxes and County Treasurer, to be gubernatorially appointed.17 The same organizational change was made in Kent County in 1931.18

In 1935, the receiver of taxes and county treasurer was made responsible for the collection of all county taxes. The Levy Court issued to this official two duplicates of the assessment list for county and school taxes within each hundred and the receiver was responsible for collecting all taxes levied and assessed. He was required to annually submit duplicate sets of books and accounts to the comptroller for auditing, and to provide weekly statements to the clerk of the peace and the amounts of road, poor, and county taxes received.19

All receivers were required, in 1939, to mail tax due notifications to all taxables prior to collection.20

The organization within New Castle County and Sussex Counties was altered significantly in 1965 and 1969, respectively. In 1965, the New Castle County Department of Finance was created, thereby assuming all tax collection and bookkeeping duties of the receiver of taxes and county treasurer.21 An identical organization was legislated for Sussex County in 1969.22 Both agencies are presently still in operation. Kent County, on the contrary, still maintains the office of receiver of taxes and county treasurer.

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1 Duke of York’s Laws; pp. 97, 148, 159, 255-256.

2 Ibid., pp. 257-258.

3 1 DL, ch. 137a.

4 19 DL, ch. 26.

5 23 DL, ch. 60.

6 1852 Del. Code, ch. 13.

7 Ibid.

8 14 DL, ch. 39.

9 23 DL, ch. 60.

10 16 DL, ch. 551.

11 34 DL, ch. 64.

12 40 DL, ch. 101.

13 16 DL, ch. 316.

14 1935 Del. Code, ch. 6.

15 32 DL, ch. 183.

16 33 DL, ch. 84.

17 28 DL, ch. 82.

18 33 DL, ch. 84.

19 40 DL, ch. 135.

20 42 DL, ch. 112.

21 55 DL, ch. 85.

22 57 DL, ch. 762.

jrf; March 2, 1989