Bill Coutz

Council Member Bill Coutz (R-District 2) asks questions during last week’s Cecil County Council meeting.

ELKTON — During last week’s regularly scheduled Cecil County Council meeting, board members spent some time discussing a possible change to the method by which the county can refund outstanding general obligation bonds.

The proposal would empower the county executive to execute and deliver executive orders prior to issuing the bonds in order to fix, prescribe and determine the details of the bonds and the issuance and sale of the bonds, according to the language in the bill.

According to Cecil County Finance Director Lisa Saxton, the purpose behind the change would be to allow the county flexibility to sell refunding bonds in a timely manner and allow the county to optimize interest savings.

Saxton said that currently the county goes to bond market every two years, with the last time being in Nov. 2019. She noted that the proposed change would generally only apply in off-years when the county is not going to the bond market.

Saxton said in those years, if savings were obtainable, the county’s financial advisors, Davenport & Co., LLC. would notify the county of potential savings.

Saxton said that prior to the county becoming a charter form of government, approval for such refunding of bonds was done by resolution, now such matters are handled by bills, which means the process can take around four months to complete. Saxton said the idea behind the current bill would be to speed up the process and perhaps turn around such bond refunding measures within 60 days or so.

Council member Bill Coutz (R-District 2) asked how much time would actually be saved if the change is approved. Coutz said he was concerned about removing council oversight of the process for a mere 30-day improvement in the speed that such refunding measures could be approved.

Council member Jackie Gregory (R-District 5) said she was concerned about taking the transparency away and eliminating the council from the oversight process.

“I do have serious reservations about making major changes like this at this point in time,” she said. “I don’t think the timing is right for this.”

Saxton said all the change would do is give the county an opportunity, through an executive order by the county executive to start the process.

Council member Al Miller (R- District 3) said the proposal simply gives the county another financial tool it can use to help save taxpayer dollars.

Council President Bob Meffley (R-District 1) said he felt that the more hands there are in the matter, the worse it would be, and that the finance department and the county’s advisors are specifically equipped to handle the issue.

Saxton said the goal is simply to speed up the process to give the county a better opportunity to get cost savings for already approved projects. She noted that the current four-month timeframe limits the county in some respects regarding being able to refund projects and get lower rates when they occur. She also noted that the council would still be the deciding factor on which projects are funded, and that the proposed bill would only affect refunding of bonds for an already approved project.

A public hearing on the proposed bill is scheduled for Oct. 6 at 7 p.m., with consideration scheduled for Oct. 20. at 7 p.m.

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