Cecilton approves budget, adopts constant yield rate
— The town council unanimously approved the nearly $11.2 million fiscal year budget Monday night, which heavily features work on a pipeline to Earleville communities grappling with groundwater contamination.
Almost $10 million of next year’s budget can be attributed to the project which looks to provide a lifeline to the Pearce Creek communities that have been negatively affected by the leaching of dredge spoils in local water tables. That project is estimated to be completed in the winter of 2018.
Meanwhile, however, the town’s operating budget has decreased by 7.65 percent, or more than $34,000, as Cecilton deals with declining property values following last year’s triennial assessment.
As a result of a 7.5 percent decline in total property values, Mayor Joe Zang proposed that the town adopt the constant yield property tax rate, which will produce the same amount of revenue as last year. That move results in a tax increase of 1.78 cents, moving from 21.95 cents per $100 of assessed value to 23.73 cents.
The budget also boosts hourly salaries for the town’s five full-time and two parttime employees due to the increased workload associated with the Pearce Creek project. While the town did not approve a blanket increase for employees, total salary spending increased about 4 percent with much of that expense coming from funds associated with the waterline project.
“Our employees will be faced with an increasing workload of administrative tasks as we keep on track to extend water service to the Pearce Creek communities,” Zang said. “I’ve always felt that we need to compensate our employees fairly, and it’s something I strive to do.”
Elsewhere in the budget, the town is finally receiving a $37,500 Maryland Energy Administration grant it applied for in 2014 that will help to upgrade lighting in the Frisby Meadows neighborhood and better insulate and light the town’s water and wastewater treatment plants, and maintenance building. Moving to such energy-efficient standards will also help to decrease future utility costs, officials noted.
Finally, town residents will see a 2 percent increase in their utility bills starting next quarter as they have seen in at least each of the past six years to keep up with maintenance costs. The usage rate for water and sewer will increase per quarter to a base (5,000 gallons) of $135.11 and $20.23 per unit (1,000 gallons). Meanwhile, the town hookup for water service also increased to $6,568.89 while sewer service hookup increased to $10,516.53.
But Zang said he believes that the town’s newest customers, such as the Parklands at Cecilton complex and the Dollar General, and the future Pearce Creek water customers may give all users a reprieve for several years starting as soon as next fiscal year.
“I think this may be the last 2 percent increase we’ll need for three to five years,” he said. “We needed these increases because we had no growth, while maintenance and operation costs continue to increase. But with 230 new customers coming (from Pearce Creek), in my mind it’s enough time to address our needs. It’s a burden on the residents of the town.”