Moore’s bud­get funds county raises

Pro­posal uses $2.5M in sav­ings to bal­ance

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By CH­ERYL MATTIX

cmat­tix@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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

ELK­TON

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-

ees.

“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-

vices.

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.

MOORE

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