Hogan Budget Cuts $2.1 Million in Cecil County Direct Aid; Gov. Counts Pension Costs as State Contributions to Schools, College

January 26, 2015

A CECIL TIMES Special Report

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s newly proposed budget would cut state aid to a variety of programs and services in Cecil County– but after counting the cost of pensions for some employees, the state calculations try to make the cuts look smaller.

Overall, state “direct aid” to Cecil County government operations would drop from $114.6 million in the current budget year to $112.5 million in Fiscal 2016, or a cut of over $2.1 million and 1.8 percent.

But in a broader, comprehensive listing of total state aid and spending—including state-paid retirement costs for teachers, Cecil College and library employees—the Hogan budget figures it is reducing state aid in Cecil County by only $1.6 million, or 1.3 percent. The state pays the full costs of library and college employees’ pensions, while for the past several years the state has been shifting an increasing portion of public school teacher pensions from the state to local counties.

What the Hogan budget doesn’t mention is the rising share of teacher pensions that the counties have to pay out of local funds. In the upcoming Fiscal 2016 budget, Cecil County taxpayers will have to come up with $3.9 million to cover the state-mandated county share of local teachers’ pensions—an increase of $591,000 over the current budget year.

And Cecil County school officials say that the Hogan budget’s calculations mask a total of $2.1 million in additonal reductions to local education programs– on top of the similar figure for overall direct aid to the county– due to changes in state education aid formulas.

Cecil Times plowed through thousands of pages of the multi-volume state operating and capital budget documents released in Annapolis on Friday 1/23/15 to compile this report. While some crucial construction projects—such as continuation of work on Cecil County’s new vocational and technical high school—remain on track, the county comes up short in many categories.

A top item on the county’s wish list— boosting its share of state highway user fund revenues—didn’t make it to the new governor’s budget. Former Gov. Martin O’Malley had slashed county governments’ share of revenues from gasoline taxes and other fees by over 90 percent in recent years to balance his own budget. Hogan had promised to restore at least some of the highway user funds to the counties during his campaign.

But that didn’t happen in Hogan’s budget and in fact Cecil County faces more cuts in such aid. The highway user funds, and related aid for senior citizen and disabled transit services, would be cut in Cecil County by $469,000 or a 32.8 percent reduction from the current budget year, according to the state budget documents. The county allocation of $828,000 in road user funds includes a $203,250 figure that must be passed on to the towns.

Statewide, overall transportation funding takes an 8.5 percent hit, down from $192.9 million in the current budget year to $176.5 million in the new budget. Hogan kept two costly rail projects—in Montgomery County and in Baltimore City—in his budget for the time being while he re-evaluates their feasibility, so the cuts are coming in road and other transportation projects.

Meanwhile, the state figures it will provide the Cecil County Public Schools (CCPS) with $98.9 million in “direct aid” in Fiscal 2016, and that amounts to a $1.72 million or 1.7 percent reduction from the current Fiscal 2015 budget year. But after figuring in the portion of teacher pensions the state still pays for, the budget claims the reduction is really only $1.29 million.

But Tom Kappra, the director of finance for CCPS, said the $1.72 million cut is “real” and the schools system will have to try to find ways to make up the shortfall in the new budget the schools send to County Executive Tari Moore in the next few weeks.

And the new state cut is even more of a blow to county schools because under pre-existing formulas, CCPS expected a $476,000 increase in Fiscal 2016 over the current budget level, Kappra said.

But Hogan changed two formula provisions—cutting cost-of-living increases in per student aid and revising when county income data is computed—that will cost CCPS state aid. As a result, the combined cuts and formula changes amount to a $2.19 million blow to the schools budget.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do,” Kappra said.

Although CCPS student enrollment as of last September 30 was down by 164 students, Kappra said the direct aid formula changes were responsible for the bulk of lost state funds.

In Hogan’s capital budget, three key CCPS construction projects are firmly on track. The new vocational and technical school in Elkton is slated to receive a $242,000 installment of state aid in the new budget, on top of over $5 million in previously approved state funds.

The major $18.7 million overhaul of Perryville Elementary School is also supported in the state capital budget, with $2.8 million in Fiscal 2016. And repairs to Conowingo Elementary School are slated to receive $218,000 in the new state budget.

In other areas of the state capital budget, state parkland in Cecil County will receive $249,000 for several construction projects at Fair Hill and Elk Neck State Park.

In his budget message, Hogan boasted that statewide, he was providing spending increases of $45.3 million on K-12 public education, $2.5 million for libraries and $3.7 million for community colleges. Those increase figures included state pension costs, not spendable aid to local programs.

Supporters of state fiscal reforms say it is proper to include the costs of employee pensions in calculating state spending on such programs, since that is a cost ultimately borne by the taxpayers. And the state failed for years to fully account for pension costs as spending on programs grew.

In Cecil County, the new state budget provides for the handsome increase of $29,000 for Cecil College—and that is after including the costs of college employees’ state pensions. But that tiny boost comes after the college suffered a more than $190,000 surprise cut in the current budget year earlier this month when outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley pushed cuts through the Board of Public Works to lower the deficit in the current budget before he left office.

Those BPW cuts also hit Cecil County government and agencies on multiple fronts: a $230,000 cut in a “disparity” grant to the county designed to compensate for its low income tax revenues; more than $16,000 in local police aid; and $126,000 in aid to the local health department—which is officially a state agency but also receives county funds. Hogan’s budget retains the O’Malley ‘disparity grant’ reduction and freezes the aid at the Fiscal 2014 level of $299,000.

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34 Responses to Hogan Budget Cuts $2.1 Million in Cecil County Direct Aid; Gov. Counts Pension Costs as State Contributions to Schools, College

  1. Cecil Mom on January 26, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Thanks a lot, Cecil Times, for this very informative report. As a parent of a county schools student, I’m very concerned about our governor’s dealing with our schools. I voted for him as I wanted to Change Maryland. But I am now worried about Hogans treatment of our local school system.

  2. Ronald Demmler on January 26, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    Where does the place at the table come in?

    • Harold McCanick on January 27, 2015 at 9:27 am

      Someone has to constrict the OweMalley trough or taxes will go through the roof.Guess who said this day was coming?That would be the Tea Party Patriot”Wingnuts”.

    • Betty Ulrich on January 27, 2015 at 6:10 pm

      I agree Ron, where is our place at the table?
      Democrats have a history of supporting education funding.
      Here is the change Cecil County cried for, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

      • RDF001 on January 27, 2015 at 8:54 pm

        Democrats have a history of extravagant spending and taxing the rural areas to give more to the urban areas. The change from a Democrat dictatorship is welcome.

        • Betty Ulrich on January 30, 2015 at 8:59 am

          The change from Democrats LEADERSHIP to Republican will hurt many. The school system will be the first to see this and many more will be hurt by this.

          • RDF 001 on January 31, 2015 at 7:42 pm

            Democrats in Maryland featured taxes and fees on steroids. Democrats maxed out Maryland’s credit by paying current expenses via bond issues. Democrats imposed “unfunded mandates” on local jurisdictions. Spending reductions due to Democrat FAILED “LEADERSHIP” was inevitable.

      • Rick O'Shea on January 28, 2015 at 1:09 pm

        Very informative Editorial in today’s Cecil Whig. ” The overall spending for public schools increased by $45.3 to $6.1 billion”. Looks like Republican support for education funding to me.

        • Cecil Mom on January 28, 2015 at 6:19 pm

          Rick, you should pour a big salt shaker on what that Whig editorial wrote and they didn’t do anythingon their own but quote the student writers from the University of Maryland. Easy to pull the wool over their eyes?

          The state money for schools all over the state put into the numbers the small part of teacher pensions the state is still paying. They didn’t say how much the local counties are now having to pay for teacher pensions.

          Since you are commenting on this article here, maybe you should read it again. Including Mr. Kappra’s explanation. The new governor’s cuts to Cecil county schools are “real.”

          • Rick O'Shea on January 28, 2015 at 7:45 pm

            Cecil Mom: I re-read the article. Facts are facts, regardless of who reports them. I saw no quote from Mr. Kappra in the article.

  3. Joe C on January 26, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    Well, Well, Well all the money spent last year would come in handy with these much needed cuts. This is why we continue to press the [county] council on spending. The chickens have come home to roost, but don’t worry
    the council will come to the taxpayers for the “feed.”

    After all the sewer rate payers are getting ready to fund sewers for some well connected campaign contributors, because the current council refuses to make the new users fund the project bond as is done in the other five sewer districts in the county.

    • Mike R on January 27, 2015 at 10:38 am

      Joe C, I concur with you. Let the chickens come home to roost. Tari Moore and her minions have been so quick to spend, spend, spend. Look at the costs for her entourage of department heads as well as the high cost of the school system and animal control. Geez, you would think that by now she would be finished with the growing pains of her position and hunker down to some real numbers that this county can support and afford. Just a guess who will be paying for her frivolous spending?…

  4. Kennard Wiggins on January 27, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Thanks for providing this information. A valuable public service.

  5. Jeannette H on January 27, 2015 at 10:54 am

    Finally we have a Governor that makes sense. He is doing what any good business man would do and that is to cut budgets. You can’t convince me that their is such a need for the school programs to need such huge amounts of money. Those of us on a fixed income somehow make it work and do with less and less. Why?

    Simple the school system and county government are greedy and want more and more. Time for Cecil County to live within its means. Cut spending and boy can I think of places they could really save without feeling the pinch, starting at the top of the hierarchy….

    • SchoolMarm on January 28, 2015 at 10:41 pm

      Build and fund good schools. And build and fund good libraries. Then they will come. They being businesses and people/families who are concerned about these institutions, both businesses and persons paying taxes.

      Cut funding and keep cutting it, the budget will look no better as there will be no growth. No business nor family will want to relocate here knowing the schools and libraries are underfunded. They will go to Harford or, to a lesser degree, Kent county. Check out our “growth” or lack of as a result of the BRAC move from NJ.

      The county budget is tight; it has been tight for over 10 years. But this further tightening is no cause for dancing in the streets, which, at this point at least. are repaired or maintained and, when necessary, plowed.

      • Joe C on February 1, 2015 at 11:49 pm

        Buying Basell at an inflated price from a LLC with questionable local connections was a mistake when you cannot take care of the schools you already have. Sort of like a bankrupt real estate company buying another old house and thinking this will fix the problem. Absolutely warped thinking. The taxpayers will lose when they have to foot the bill for this and other runaway spending.

        • Rebecca Demmler on February 8, 2015 at 3:05 pm

          I keep thinking that is so very important that the Board of Education communicates facts and data to the general public. On the street and social media, I hear so much misinformation being spread. There is the recurring complaint that the school system is “top heavy” with most of the money going toward administration and not to direct student programs. Yet, these same people do not put forth any effort to look through the education budget to see for themselves the sources of funding and how it is spent.

          Further they aren’t aware of mandates with which education is saddled. There is so very much within the budget that is unknown to the general public. I have experienced (with great frustration) that those who complain are merely echoing false opinion they have heard. They find it easier to grouse and pick, rather than to learn the facts. I’ve heard it before: ”I don’t care what the facts are. I only care about my taxes.”

          Bottom line, too many simply refuse to put any effort into gathering background in order to understand this multifaceted budget. Even so, it can’t hurt for the Board of Ed. to make the concerted effort to put the financial facts in front of those who view spending with a wary eye. Who knows: some just may be swayed enough to consider taking the steps to UNDERSTAND why the budget is what it is.

          • Jean on April 20, 2015 at 5:17 pm

            So why don’t you come up with the correct figures and information, and just let us know, a lot of what the board claims for spending is padded so they can get more for the next year.

          • Jean on April 20, 2015 at 5:23 pm

            PS I know this is true as I worked in Town Government as I was told to pad the figures in the department I worked in by my boss so they could get more money in the next fiscal year.

          • Jackie on April 23, 2015 at 9:01 pm

            Rather than always blaming the many unfunded mandates we are saddled with, it is time to have some leadership in pushing back against these mandates, especially those which are not directly tied to student achievement.

    • Jean on April 20, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      I agree 100% especially when they want to pay CCC $273,000 and the College has all kind of money coming in from donations of alumni and the money they charge for classes. (I know– I used to work there.) Also the tax payers pay school taxes, my children went to CCPS and graduated in 1989, and I am still paying school taxes even though they are gone. What about the Elderly, Retired, why are they not exempt from these taxes?

      Now Moore wants to increase 5.9% or 4,504,509 for CCPS. Some of the teachers in these school are greedy and I have seen the type of treatment they give the kids– a lot of them are verbally abusive and ignore a lot of problems in their classrooms– all they care about is their paychecks, so why give them more money to do crumby jobs? They don’t bring this stuff up at meetings when they want raises.

      As far as Libraries, CCC claims funds for their Library while books for the classes are being sold– uh money in their pockets and then they want us to give them more money. Now for the Public Libraries they have donations, I know because I have donated to them, and also have volunteers to work in them, plus fund raisers and Moore wants to give them $60,750. For County Employees, ah yea Government, she wants a 15% HEATH CARE COSTS, does that also include the Teachers?

      Tired of all the bull, we pay pay pay, and when the Government cuts costs, we still pay through County Tax Raises.

  6. D W Senn on February 3, 2015 at 8:19 am

    Darling Diana is the reason Basell eventually had to be purchased at an “inflated” price. Let’s not sweep that fact under the rug, Joe.

    • Joe C on February 4, 2015 at 11:52 pm

      Mr. Senn,
      She voted against the purchase both times, so blaming her is not the answer. Had the school board had better negotiators they could have gotten the property at a better price– there were no other buyers looking to buy the property. It was all a nice story spun by the powers to be in Cecil County to make money and be able to spend more of other peoples money while blaming the “evil Diana”. Nice fairy tale!

      Unfortunately the “other” people are the taxpayers. Just watch the money that is being spent and will be spent on the property.

      • Harold McCanick on April 22, 2015 at 8:32 am

        Dianna Broomell is an anti-development troll and that is no fairy tale. She didn’t want CCPS to develop Basell, she didn’t want an enterprise zone there, she doesn’t want any county growth, but she did want a bicycle bridge across the upper Chesapeake though –what a liberal.

        If she had her way there would be a fence around this entire county,the problem is we all would be locked in–with her.

        • SchoolMarm on April 23, 2015 at 6:54 am

          Broomell is and has been a Republican. She is most emphatically not a liberal, either. She is greedy and self-serving–and she is a Republican.

          • Jackie on April 23, 2015 at 9:12 pm

            The Republican platform supports property rights and is not anti-growth. Broomell is anti-property rights and anti-growth. She does not support the Republican platform. She is very liberal on those issues and lacks common sense of most others. Being greedy and self-serving are personal traits that are not related to party affiliation.

          • Harold McCanick on April 24, 2015 at 12:06 am

            She is all government all the time on property rights.That makes her a liberal in my opinion.

          • Harold McCanick on April 24, 2015 at 9:44 pm

            Dear School,Are you implying it is shameless to be a liberal?

        • SchoolMarm on April 24, 2015 at 6:16 am

          Well, she did have a big, fat R next to her name when she ran and was elected. If you can say she is not a Republican, others can say she is not a liberal. She was elected by people voting for that R– little else. If one wants to call her names, and she definitely deserved that action, please stop with the liberal nonsense.

          Tell is like it is– greedy, selfish, stupid, etc could be many politicians, not liberals by definition. Just because you disagree with her does not make her a liberal. Name calling reveals the name caller.

  7. Harold McCanick on April 25, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    She posed as an”R”. She got exposed as a LIBERAL. She would have a better chance of winning an election with a D next to her name for that reason. If you are ashamed of being liberal you should do something about it. I suggest you start with the U S Constitution.

  8. Tina Sharp on April 29, 2015 at 4:43 am

    I’m still amazed how rude the comments towards council are, and council has done nothing but what they are paid to do, which is make a decision based on facts. Two councilmen are new and therefore need time to collect enough data to make a decision.

  9. Harold McCanick on April 29, 2015 at 6:41 am

    I don’t see where anyone is being”rude”to the council here. I did see where a former councilwoman is being rude to anyone asking for accountability though. Guess what the budget and taxes did when she was in office.

  10. Brian Lockhart on April 29, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    I am pretty sure you collect the data BEFORE being elected not after.

    • RDF 001 on May 2, 2015 at 8:03 am

      How do you collect data before election regarding someone else’s budget that has neither been prepared nor submitted?

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