BULLETIN: Cecil County Commissioners Cut Extra Half-Cent on Tax Rate; Cut Sheriff’s Budget

May 23, 2011

The Cecil County Commissioners made an additional last-minute half-cent cut in the proposed property tax rate Monday but again refused to restore funds to the county public schools and proposed cutting about $260,000 from the Sheriff’s proposed budget.

The actions came during a Monday worksession but the final vote on the Fiscal 2012 county budget and the property tax rate will be taken Tuesday afternoon.

Last week, the Commissioners cut more than $366,000 from the budget in broad nicks across departments and programs, as part of a previous tentative agreement to restore $314,000 to the county schools budget if cuts in other programs could be found. But that tentative agreement fell apart when Commissioners Board President James Mullin (R-1) reneged on his earlier statements and then voted against giving any more funds to the schools—after the other budget cuts had already been made.

A majority of the Commissioners, with Diana Broomell (R-4) and Michael Dunn (R-3) joining Mullin, again refused to restore funds to the schools.

The Commissioners had already cut $1.2 million from the schools, providing only the bare-bones maintenance of effort funding level required by state law. School officials had pleaded for restoring at least the $314,000 needed to offset a last-minute mandate dictated by Annapolis to cover administrative costs of school employee pensions for the first time.

The Commissioners also proposed cutting about $260,000 from the Sheriff’s Department Monday, the latest go-round in a budget feud over offsets for a loss of over $700,000 in state aid for the Community Adult Rehabilitation Center (CARC) program at the county jail.

With the latest spending cuts, Commissioners voted 4-1 to cut half-a-penny off the previously proposed property tax rate, which was the “constant yield” level to keep county revenues from property taxes at the same figure next year as it is this fiscal year. Hence, overall county property tax revenues could decline in Fiscal 2012 under the latest half-cent rate cut.

Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) cast the lone dissenting vote, telling Cecil Times the action by the other commissioners was “purely political” and not in the best long-term interests of the county and its citizens. She had supported the previous $366,000 in extra spending cuts but she had sought to use much of those funds to offset the schools’ pension fee mandate.

The “constant yield” tax rate for Fiscal 2012 is .9451 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The extra half-penny cut could mean that for a property with an assessed value of $200,000, the homeowner would get to keep an extra $10 in his or her wallet.

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