ELKTON — County Executive Danielle Hornberger’s fiscal year 2022 budget proposal calls for a 1.3 percent property tax cut.
If approved, it would be the first reduction in property taxes since the charter government was established in 2010.
“When I was talking to community members, the number one issue people struggled with was high taxes,” said Hornberger, who made tax cuts a cornerstone of her campaign in 2020.
The tax reduction comes with a decrease in the year-over-year growth of the general fund. General fund expenditures are set to increase by 1.6 percent in 2022 compared to the 2021 budget’s 2.4 percent increase. Hornberger said this reduction does not represent a decrease in services as much as reduction in spending on capital projects, as well as the consolidation of contracts to be more efficient and enable better use of federal funds.
One example of a cost saving measure, Hornberger said, was buying a new wash bay for the Department of Public Works. By combining the wash bay with a different project, the government could use federal funds to reduce local costs.
“The original capital improvement project budget had a request for a wash bay at our mid-county transportation hub as well as a wash bay at Public Works’ maintenance yard,” Hornberger said. “We were able to combine this into only having to build one wash bay and will be able to save additional money because the federal government will partially pay for our transportation hub and wash bay.”
Though libraries and public education saw their operating budgets receive minor cuts, the other three general fund departments, public works, information technology, and the sheriff’s office all saw their expenditures increase by over 3 percent.
The library system received a cut to its operating budget of 5.7 percent, though the debt service budget, which goes to the construction of the new North East budget was increased.
The Cecil County Public Schools Board of Education had requested a 0.7 percent increase in funding in February, but are set to see a 0.1 percent decrease instead — $128,913 cut from capital outlay funding. Hornberger increased the funding per pupil by almost $150, but enrollment losses due to the pandemic caused the budget to stagnate.
There is a concern that reduced funding will make it hard for the system to adjust if a large number of students return in the Fall if the COVID pandemic dies down. Hornberger said the issue will be dealt with if it occurs.
The funding for Cecil College also received a minor cut of 0.4 percent, compared to the 2.8 percent budget increase between 2020 and 2021. Like for CCPS, the cut is to capital outlay funding.
“I met with each department a number of times, and after listening to each department, we made tough decisions,” said Hornberger.
The Information Technology Department may receive a substantial increase in its budget of about 10.2 percent. Hornberger said the increase will create a position to work closely with the federal government, state and private sector providers. She said that Cecil County cannot apply for rural broadband access grants provided by the federal government and set for expansion by the Biden Administration, because the area is not considered rural enough, which makes securing funding for broadband access more difficult.
Public works is marked for 3.2 percent more funds. The majority of the funds — $7,873,000 — will go to the Chesapeake City Elementary School construction project. The other large expenditure in the capital budget, $2,176,000, is going to Cecil College for mechanical infrastructure, a new entrance and other facilities.
The Sheriff’s Office has a 5.7 percent proposed increase in expenditures, with an 12.1 percent increase in community corrections funding. The community corrections increase is due to state grants ending and the county needing to pick up the cost of pretrial programs.
Though not part of the general fund, The Department of Community Services received a substantial increase in funding of $1,696,773 million.
Hornberger created a new domestic violence division within the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office. The division will include a new assistant state’s attorney and a victims witness coordinator.
“I stand by my decisions,” Hornberger said. “I’m very happy to fund the sheriff’s department, and our police are doing an excellent job.”
County council will discuss the budget Tuesday, and there will be a public hearing May 20.
ELKTON — Before you get all wound up about the title, Trashy Women is an art show celebrating that everything old is new again, even if the “old” is a beat-up car part found along the side of the road.
“I saw this piece of metal on Route 213,” said Maggie Creshkoff, one of the Trashy Women.
She passed the piece initially.
“But it was such an evocative shape,” she added.
Turning around, she retrieved what turned out to be the remains of a car bumper, likely from a wreck. After studying the mangled piece for a while, Creshkoff was inspired.
“Finally it came to me. It was a whale, or a dolphin,” she said.
And it’s one of numerous pieces the Port Deposit artist has in the show, which starts with an opening reception Friday, April 2, from 5 until 8 p.m. at the Cecil County Arts Council.
On this, their 16th year, the Trashy Women are being joined by The Dumpster Divas and Lorraine Haggard in the artistic celebration of reduce, reuse, recycle.
This year’s show features nine Trashy Women and nine Dumpster Divas, all who make art from what others leave behind.
“Many pieces in this show are not what you might imagine,” Creshkoff said. “It’s kind of exciting.”
Repurposed castoffs such as a rattan furniture piece is now a mask, vintage spigot handles and oil cans are flowers in vases, and water bottles float from above as a jellyfish.
Dumpster Divas join in from Philadelphia. Haggard is an artist from Cecil College. Marjorie Blystone with the Elkton Chamber and Alliance is another participating artist as is Diana Frymiare.
While the reception is at the gallery Friday night at 135 East Main St. in Elkton, the gallery is available Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for those who observe social distancing and mask guidelines.
For more information on this and other artist events contact the Arts Council at 410-392-5740 or go to cecilarts.org
Cecil College has launched a new partnership with five other Maryland community colleges to share resources and classes to enable students to earn highly specialized degrees.
Called the Maryland Education Alliance, the partnership consists of colleges serving nine counties: Anne Arundel Community College, Cecil College, Chesapeake College, College of Southern Maryland, Harford Community College, and Prince George’s Community College.
Through the program, students can complete initial general education coursework at their home institution before transferring to a different community college for coursework in their desired specialized field. Their degree, however, comes from their home college.
Most shared courses will be in the STEM fields, specifically engineering and science, along with business.
The partnership is especially good for students studying in more niche programs that are high cost and low enrollment, which are difficult for most colleges to run.
Richard Haubert, a spokesman for Cecil College, used the example of Prince George’s Community College’s respiratory care program. He said that is as a program unique to one school that MEA students will benefit from.
“Students can do the majority of their general education courses here at Cecil and go down to Prince George’s Community College to take theory classes, which are typically around a semester and a half of courses,” Haubert said. “Then they come back and they do their clinical work here in Cecil because Cecil College already has good relationships with Christiana Care and regional nursing homes. It saves students money because they don’t have to go to a different county to do their clinical work down there.”
Virtual learning makes the process even easier for students as they no longer have to commute to class.
Students can also take advantage of articulation agreements with four-year colleges, like the one Cecil College and Anne Arundel Community College have with Frostburg State University for mechanical engineering and electrical engineering, respectively.
The process began in August when Cecil College received approval to offer a lower division certificate in health sciences, an option that lays the groundwork for further health studies at other institutions.
“The MEA collaboration was born out of initial discussions between Cecil College, Anne Arundel Community College, and Frostburg State University related to engineering courses and programs. Opportunities to share resources and collaborate to increase enrollment in low-enrolled specialty engineering courses, such as electrical or aerospace engineering, started the collaborative conversations, but this quickly expanded to include other disciplines,” said Dr. Christy Dryer, Cecil College’s vice president of academic programs.
The participating institutions will meet annually to discuss issues and help further streamline the process for students. Other community colleges can join the MEA as they expand the amount of academic programs they offer.