Cecil County Exec McCarthy: No Tax Rise in New Budget; Will Seek Re-election in 2020

January 29, 2019


The state of Cecil County is “great and getting better,” according to Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy, and he will seek a second term in office in 2020 to continue to promote economic development, job creation and educational improvements in the county. McCarthy, who delivered his annual “state of the county” address before the Chamber of Commerce this week in Chesapeake City, also pledged there would be no tax increases in his upcoming budget.

After ticking off a list of improvements in the local economy and job development efforts, McCarthy subtly interjected his future political plans toward the end of his speech: “I will commit to you that I will do everything in my power to keep the momentum going, not only for the next two years, but for the four years after that.”

“We will not take our foot off the pedal,” he said. And he will work “to ensure that Cecil County continues to move forward.”

In an interview with CECIL TIMES, McCarthy confirmed that he planned to seek re-election and said, “We’ve done a lot, but there is still more to do.” He said he also wanted to re-assure some of the new businesses that are considering opening enterprises in Cecil County that the current pro-business climate in county government would continue under his leadership, if he is re-elected next year.

In McCarthy’s two years in office as the county’s second county executive under Charter government, there has been an explosion of new business development, primarily in or near the Principio business park near Perryville. McCarthy noted there was been an expansion of 6 million square feet of commercial space in the county and creation of 3,000 new jobs in the past two years.

There is also the recently announced plan for location of a Great Wolf Lodge hotel and waterpark resort adjacent to the Hollywood Casino in Perryville that is expected to generate from 500 to 600 new jobs, with an estimated $10 million payroll in wages and benefits when it opens, probably in 2022. The hotel will have up to 500 rooms and feature restaurants, shopping arcades and multiple entertainment options, from water slides to rock climbing walls and a large conference center. The project is also expected to spur additional economic development on the remainder of the adjoining “Chesapeake Overlook” site that is currently vacant.

McCarthy, who was elected county executive in 2016 after serving a term on the County Council, said that the last two years have been “packed with positive results and productivity” in county government, and his willingness to take some tough fiscal and political steps to restore the county’s fiscal health and position it for the future.

When he took office, the county’s “financial situation was indeed dire,” McCarthy said, with $2.4 million in “unassigned fund balance” emergency reserve funds diverted to balance the annual operating budget. (His predecessor as county executive, Tari Moore, repeatedly drained the reserve accounts, which dropped from $15 million when she took office to about $6 million when she left, and she used the fund to finance deficit spending on her watch in order to avoid politically unpopular tax increases to pay for her spending programs.)

“Commercial and residential growth was negligible, there was no connection between the capital budget and long-term affordability. The health insurance fund was underwater and the wastewater and solid waste /landfill enterprise funds were operating in the red,” McCarthy said.

“Cecil County was headed for a serious financial crisis,” McCarthy said. He took the political heat in his first county budget to raise the property tax rate by 5-cents, increased the hotel tax on tourists, and upped the county’s income tax rate from 2.8 percent to 3 percent. The property tax rate boosted the annual tax bill paid for a home valued at $200,000 by about $100 a year.

Tax increases were “not popular, and most certainly not politically wise,” McCarthy observed at his state of the county address. But “these necessary fiscal changes,” he said, provided “a solid foundation for growth.”

But tax rates were frozen in the current budget year, and McCarthy pledged this week that there would be no new tax increases in his upcoming Fiscal 2020 budget, which is expected to presented to the County Council by 4/1/2019.

He said that his upcoming budget would continue his policies of fiscal balance between revenues and spending and, like his two previous budgets, would not tap the “unassigned fund balance” reserve accounts.

But his budget will continue needed construction projects, such as the first phase of development of a new Chesapeake City elementary school and moving forward with the new North East public library, which was unveiled in architects’ drawings recently before the County Council.

Meanwhile, the political landscape for next year’s county executive race suggests that McCarthy won’t have a clear path to re-election. Several potential Republican rivals seem to be circling the campaign, according to local and state political sources.

Former County Council member Dan Schneckenburger, who was defeated for re-election to his council seat in the Republican primary in 2018, also ran unsuccessfully against McCarthy for County Executive in 2016. And Schneckenburger has been nursing his political wounds, and sniping at McCarthy, ever since.

His most recent snipes against McCarthy, in a totally unrelated social media rant a week ago on the day of Gov. Larry Hogan’s inaugural events, suggest that he has McCarthy in his political gun scope, even without citing the incumbent by name:

“I think Governor Larry Hogan greatest strength is that he pays attention to improving Maryland for everyone. His conservative fiscal policies have been excellent for us, and have been so different from our current County Executive. He and his entire cabinet have benefited Cecil County so much the past four years. Many of his closest supporters in Annapolis are pro-Trump. With the leadership we have in Cecil County, I am glad to have him for a second term, “Schneckenburger wrote on Facebook in a posting that otherwise featured soft personal photos of him and his wife in evening attire preparing for the Hogan inaugural ball events.

Schneckenburger’s campaign committee currently has a balance of $6,911, according to the most recent filings with the state Board of Elections (BOE) this month. He is also carrying over a total of $5,800 in personal loans to his past campaigns.

In an unusual contribution after he had already lost the June, 2018 Republican primary for his former County Council seat, Schneckenburger received $2,000 from the campaign committee of US Rep. Andy Harris (R-1) in August, 2018, according to BOE records. At the time, Schneckenburger had no further election year races and his bills were covered by funds in his account. The Harris money was also not used to pay off Schneckenburger’s loans to his own campaign, according to BOE records.

By financial standards, it would look like Harris has an ongoing local political interest in keeping Schneckenburger’s political career alive, despite two consecutive election losses.

McCarthy’s campaign committee has a modest current balance of $9,642, according to BOE records of his most recent 1/2019 filing. His campaign is also still carrying over a personal loan of $5,000 from previous campaigns.

Meanwhile, local political sources identified two other potential rivals in the Republican primary for county executive, but one non-elected Republican assured CECIL TIMES on an off-the-record basis that he is not interested in being a candidate. Based on previous conversations, this politically active but non-elected person has credible family reasons for not seeking elected office at this time.

Sources identified another newly elected and politically ambitious county official as quietly seeking to build support to mount a race for county executive. If his previous failure in a bid for another advancement is an indication, his ambitions may outweigh his political clout.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response to Cecil County Exec McCarthy: No Tax Rise in New Budget; Will Seek Re-election in 2020

  1. Ron Lobos on February 8, 2019 at 8:17 am

    I think Dr. McCarthy is doing an exemplary job with economic development. He has been able to capitalize on the Trump economy and bring new opportunity to Cecil County. I am happy to hear that he will continue to promote economic development, job creation and educational improvement to the county. However, the one thing that I hear concerns about from most Cecil County resident is the poor conditions of County Roads.

    Cecil County Roads are a mess. That includes the neighborhoods too. And I don’t want to hear excuses about how the state cut funding to the County. We seem to have found over $20M for new libraries, artificial turf playing fields and Calvert park. Now it’s time to spend our tax dollars on something all of us benefit from. I have been patient but now is the time for our County Executive to spend tax dollars that affect each and every Cecil County citizen on a daily basis, not just special interests.

    I trust that Dr. McCarthy will have an opportunity to read this and react in a positive manner as he always does.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Fine Maryland Wines
Proudly made in Cecil County