ELKTON — Cecil County volunteer fire companies will see even more money from the county government after an error was corrected in the state’s tax data that determines the county’s annual allocation.
A resolution proposed to draw $232,338 from the county’s budget stabilization fund and divide it among the nine fire companies. The money represents at least four fiscal years of unaccounted for funding because several new properties were not assigned a fire district code in the Maryland Department of Assessment and Taxation internal system, according to county officials.
The fire district code is instrumental for determining the allocations of the nine volunteer fire companies. Under the Cecil County Code, part of the funding formula is determined by 2 cents per $100 of assessed property value within the district served by each fire company.
“Let me be clear, [the state] owns the responsibility being transmitted to the county being incorrect,” county Budget Manager Rebecca Anderson said during the work session.
“The state provides information that we plug into our budget and then budget.”
This resolution comes weeks after the council $164,154 from the budget stabilization reserve to rectify the error in the Fiscal Year 2020 from this same error.
One fire company called the county administration to check if county properties were accurately counted due to the number of new commercial properties between North East and Perryville on U.S. Route 40, according to the fiscal note to the resolution.
In turn, Anderson went to SDAT for review of the properties in question. SDAT corrected the error, which resulted in the county allocating $164,154 to make up for the shortfall.
“Of course on everybody’s mind, including the administration’s, was how far did this go back and how far back can we identify what happened,”she told the council during work session.
A programming script written to detect this error could only trace back to Fiscal Year 2016, and recalculated the assessments. That translates to $232,338 for the nine fire companies.
Moving forward, the county Land Use and Development division will require that the fire district code be placed on the subdivision plat so that all parties will know which fire company is assigned to a property.
Anderson added said that the county can request that SDAT can run the script to ensure that no property is missed for the volunteer fire company’s budget in the future.
Fire Company chiefs also receive an email when a new property goes online in their district, so they can also check property records to see if it matches, she added.
The resolution is scheduled for a vote on Nov. 5.