Cecil County’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget holds the line on taxes and does not draw from the County’s fund balance, in large part due to last year’s tax increases. It does, however, propose significantly increasing sewer fees (but not water, which the County has turned over to Artesian Water via franchise agreement).
The biggest surprise for many in attendance was McCarthy’s plan to increase sewer fees from the current $11.87 per thousand gallons. In three year’s time, the user fee will be $15.70 per thousand gallons.
“The wastewater fund is facing serious financial challenges that are decades in the making,” McCarthy said. “The county undertook a much-needed upgrade at the Northeast River Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant, and the user base has been slow in paying for these upgrades. We must address this now in order to put us on solid financial footing.”
The overall budget of $306 million includes revenue from property and income taxes, as well as fees from three enterprise funds: wastewater, landfill, and property management. Property taxes remain at $1.0414 per $100 of assessed value while the county income tax stays at 3 percent.
County Executive Alan McCarthy’s general fund proposal includes $195.3 million, which is $5.6 million more than last year. Property taxes fund 60 percent.
Slightly more than half of the budget funds Cecil College, Cecil County Public Schools and the Cecil County Public Library (together $99.4 million). The budget provides $250,000 for school security improvements, significantly less than the $1.25 million the schools system requested.
The budget includes $37.3 million for public safety, including $3.7 million for radio system upgrades for first responders.
It accommodates for increases in employee salaries in a number of ways. Emergency responders receive a 2.5 percent cost of living adjustment, dispatchers employed by the County more than five years receive a 6 percent increase and new titles, and both police and non-public safety employees receive new pay scales altogether.
The County Council will hold a public budget hearing on May 22 and vote on the budget in June.