Moore’s budget funds county raises
Proposal uses $2.5M in savings to balance
— County Executive Tari Moore proposed a $183 million general fund budget Friday for fiscal year 2017 that includes a constant yield tax rate of 0.9914 cents per $100 of assessed proper ty valuation.
Moore ’ s fourth and final proposed budget as county executive seeks a year-to-year increase in the general fund of $4.76 million, or 2.7 percent, using a tax rate that is 0.0007 cents above the fiscal year 2016 rate of 0.9907. She notably did not seek a tax increase as she did last year to pay for proposed expenses, but was rebuffed by the county council, which ultimately pared her proposal down to eliminate an increase.
“It’s not a tax increase by definition,” County Budget Manager Craig Whiteford
said of this proposed budget, explaining that the rate was established by using the constant yield rate — which produces the same amount of revenue as the previous year — but reduced due to slightly lower assessments.
Moore’s budget gives all county employees, including those at Cecil College and Cecil County Public Library, an approximate 5 percent pay raise effective July 1 with public safety employees getting an approximate 11 percent pay raise in accordance with their negotiated contracts.
County employees have not had a pay increase in several years due to tight budgets.
“It’s been heart-breaking at times not to be able to give them raises,” Moore said Friday as she delivered her budget message during at morning press conference. “The time is now and we’re taking incremental steps to increase wages.”
Whiteford said the county intends to phase in wage increases gradually over four years to regain competitiveness in the marketplace after a few years of losing employ-
“Constant change of hiring and training employees only to see them leave is troubling at best,” he said. “This pay raise is long overdue.”
Departments with the highest employee turnover rates are emergency services, information technology, public safety and public works.
The pay raise is hoped to help offset some of the 30 percent increase in health insurance costs being shared between employer and employee this year.
“It’s no secret health insurance premiums are going up,” Moore said, noting the county has created a new standard option plan this year in recognition of the premium increase.
“The new option is almost identical to the high option plan most county employees have,” she added. “But it is only about $40 more a year for family coverage.”
Employees can pick among single-person coverage, twoperson coverage and family plans with varying premiums.
It’s the first time that the county’s budget has included a government operated animal care and control agency instead of paying a private contractor to provide the ser-
Moore has put a total of $720,000 in the 2017 budget to cover those costs, which is the same figure paid to A Buddy for Life in fiscal years 2014 and 2015. In the current year 2016, county council cut Moore’s proposed $720,000 budget for animal control to $660,000.
She told the Cecil Whig she knows the $720,000 figure is three years old and costs could have gone up, but she also is confident that county employees will work hard to find grants and efficiencies for the operation, along with efforts from dedicated volunteers.
Cecil County Public Schools will get a 1.3 percent increase to their operating expenses based on changes in enrollment and for small capital projects, which leaves it at the maintenance of effort level. Among other items, the increase provides a 1 percent cost of living raise and step increases for all school employee groups. Last year, Moore’s budget allocated $4.3 million more than the maintenance of effort level to public schools amidst a loud lobbying effort by school staff and parents.
Moore’s fiscal year 2017 budget also funds capital proj-
ects for the school system including continuing site work for the replacement of Gilpin Manor Elementary School, boiler replacements at Bohemia Manor middle and high schools, Kenmore Elementary School, Thomson Estates Elementary School and Cherry Hill Middle School; a roof replacement at Cecilton Elementary School, land acquisition for Chesapeake City Elementary School and the construction at Perryville Elementary School’s renovation project.
Under small capital projects, Moore’s budget proposes to fund the final year of a four-year broadband internet project for the school system, another year of a Johnson Control contract for energy performance, and the resurfacing of tennis courts at Rising Sun High School.
Her budget includes $345,000 in funds to the health department for initiatives to reduce substance abuse in Cecil County, including outreach, intervention and treatment services, using revenue from Hollywood Casino Perryville’s local impact grants.
Cecil College’s budget is proposed to increase by 11.7 percent, or about $1 million, in fiscal year 2017, while the
library’s budget is proposed to increase by 6.2 percent.
The Cecil County Sheriff’s Office’s budget is proposed to increase by 3.9 percent, which supports five new patrol deputies, replacement of patrol vehicles and the purchase of five new vehicles. It also includes funding for more training and needed special gear.
The budget provides full funding of the Volunteer Fire Companies’ Vehicle Replacement program match of $100,000 to Water Witch Volunteer Fire Co. for one ambulance.
The Department of Public Works is proposed to receive 19.7 percent less in funding next fiscal year, largely due to decreased funding support for road overlay, while the Department of Parks and Recreation is proposed to receive $1.8 million more in capital project funding for more work at Calvert Regional Park.
Moore’s proposed spending budget is balanced this year using $2.5 million of the county’s unassigned fund balance, leaving about $2 million in the unassigned account. However, the county also has an assigned fund balance and a rainy day account that remain untouched for specific or emergency needs.
The county is also relying on $667,000 in debt service savings gained by refinancing county bonds in January at a lower interest rate.
Additional revenue is expected from a phased-in sewer rate increase (the fourth of five years) of 3 percent to $10.02 per 1,000 gallons and a solid waste tipping fee increase of 5 percent to $79 per ton to commercial haulers, with no hike for self-haulers.
Moore also proposes to implement a $25 minimum fee for all county deed transfers. With recordation changes implemented last year, the county had 800 transfers that were still not charged any fee.
The Cecil County Council will begin its hearings on each department’s county executive-approved budget request starting at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. The budget hearing schedule continues weekly until May when county council deliberates on whether to accept Moore’s budget as presented, or make additional cuts. Under charter law, they cannot add money to Moore’s total proposed budget.
The complete budget schedule, which is open to the public, is posted online at www.ccgov.org.