In today’s world, internet connectivity is no longer a luxury—it is a necessity. Access to affordable internet, broadband, wireless, and cellular services is an essential component of a county’s economic development and the socio-economic advancements of its residents.
Residents benefit from increased economic growth, improved labor market access and outcomes, access to better health care, enhanced civic participation, enriched education opportunities, improved quality of life, and overall competitive and vibrant communities.
When Senate Bill 229 becomes law on July 1, residents in Cecil County will have a new tool to expand high-speed internet access to underserved communities. The bill enables residents in unincorporated areas to petition the county government to establish special taxing districts to pay for the installation of internet service.
According to a press release:
Requiring the support of two-thirds of property owners and approval of the County Council, creation of these voluntary districts would generate the front-funding necessary to install broadband infrastructure.
“Having access to high speed internet service is vital in today’s world,” said Cecil County Executive Dr. Alan McCarthy. “The enactment of this legislation provides another mechanism for unserved residents and businesses to obtain service.”
Thanks to the work of Cecil County’s state delegation, this option is available throughout the entirety of Cecil County’s unincorporated area. Previous law limited special taxation district requests to property owners located within the growth areas as designated by the County’s Comprehensive Plan.
Special taxing districts are defined as geographic areas within which a special tax is imposed on property owners to fund infrastructure improvements or services. A county or municipality must have enabling authority from the General Assembly to create a special taxing district.
The General Assembly has authorized counties and municipalities to create special taxing districts for many different purposes. These purposes include infrastructure improvements, commercial district management, road construction, water and sewer systems, drainage, erosion prevention and control, waterway improvement, street lighting, and stormwater management.
The authority to create special taxing districts varies considerably among counties because some enabling statutes apply only to certain counties and not others.
A frequently used statute, codified in Title 21, Subtitle 5 of the Local Government Article, authorizes 12 specified counties (including Cecil County) to create special taxing districts for infrastructure improvements. A comprehensive overview of special taxing districts in Maryland can be found in Chapter 6 of the Guide to the Property Tax Structure in Maryland.
Read the full press release for more information.