BULLETIN: Cecil County Drafts $169 Million Budget; Schools Get Flat Funding
The Cecil County Commissioners have drafted a $169 million proposed budget for Fiscal 2013 that would freeze public schools funds at the current level and taps reserve funds for $3 million to provide over half of a $5.9 million increase in county spending in the new budget year.
The draft proposal was hammered out in several closed door sessions of the County Commissioners over the past few weeks. Those sessions were less contentious than last year’s budget process, according to some participants, but they were still not without some partisan sniping among board members who have been sharply divided on a wide range of issues for well over a year.
Overall, the proposed budget provides for $169,135,431 in spending for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2012, up by more than $5.9 million over the current $163,233,252. The rise amounts to a 3.6 percent increase in spending.
Revenues to support the budget would primarily come from property taxes (61 percent), followed by income taxes (28 percent), “other” revenues (8 percent) and pulling $3 million out of county “reserve” funds to pay for the remaining 2 percent.
The budget also projects “impact aid” revenues from the Hollywood Casino on Perryville will pump nearly $3.4 million into county coffers, up from $3 million in the current budget year. But much of that increase will be offset by $266,667 in payments back to Penn National Gaming, operator of the casino, under an agreement by previous commissioners to offset unreimbursed area improvements made by the casino operators prior to opening.
The budget proposal freezes the county public schools at the current level of $67,156,014. The proposed budget, although a “level funding,” actually amounts to a slight increase over the state-mandated “maintenance of effort” level, which requires the county to provide the same per-pupil funding as in the previous budget year.
The schools are projecting a 111-student decline in enrollment, which would translate into about a $485,000 cut in county funds if only “maintenance of effort” level support were provided. Level funding will allow the schools to receive that amount.
A Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee recently recommended level funding of the schools.
Overall, education—including Cecil College—accounts for 45 percent of county spending while public safety constitutes 20 percent.
Still up in the air is the impact of a special session of the General Assembly that is expected to be convened in Annapolis in mid-May and that is expected to shift part of the costs of teacher pensions to the counties. County budget officials have been anticipating that a House version of the plan could dump over $2.4 million in costs on Cecil County in the new budget year.
[Cecil Times will be filing a more detailed report on the proposed budget later today.]