Wednesday, May 7, 2008

County Once Again Proposes Entire Elimination of Budget for Society

The Historical Society of Cecil County was disappointed to hear that the Board of County Commissioners has recommended complete elimination of the Society’s small funding line item of $5,000 in the proposed budget. While this is a minuscule allocation for the county, it is an important one for our organization, a group that provides economical services to the commissioners.

Our volunteers work hard for that small amount. In fact, the value of the services we provide to government is far greater than the amount the county provides for support. Since last year when the commissioners first proposed eliminating our funding, we have maintained a tabulation of the work we do at the request of local government. Our records show that we have provided over $16,000 in direct work for governmental bodies.

A few examples illustrate this value proposition and demonstrate how we save the county money.

  • When the commissioners needed photographs to decorate their new office building, they turned to us. Our volunteers attended meetings, met with county officials to plan the work, scanned and printed the images, and delivered them to the new facility. Most likely we were the only volunteers attending the meetings.
  • When the commissioners decided they wanted to change the county seal, they turned to us for a research report providing insight on this aspect of their legislated and cultural history. Our volunteers provided an in-depth, professional report at no cost to county government.
  • While the commissioners prepared to move their offices out of downtown Elkton, they turned to us for information on the history of their facilities. Our volunteers were pleased to spend many hours researching this request and preparing a professional report for all stakeholders.
  • When the Board of Education needed insight on integration in Cecil, we responded to the request.
  • When the Board of Education needed information on the George Washington Carver School for the rededication of that facility, we researched the subject.
  • When the county released an interactive emergency preparedness DVD, they turned to us to aid in the production of a 10-minute segment examining the history of major emergencies and the development of disaster management in Cecil. We were pleased to aid this important project by preparing a script and making our photographs and research resources available.
  • As the archives for county government records, we carefully preserve tax records, road books, minutes, poor house documents, marriage certificates, and much more from the colonial period until early in the 20th century. (We received that appointment after we rescued neglected colonial-era county road books that were dumped in the basement of an old 1950s fallout shelter building and were in danger of being lost or damaged.)

    These are but a few examples of our value proposition for Cecil County Government for we frequently provide services to county departments, providing them with insights that would cost much more if the government hired consultants or had staff use our resources to accomplish the tasks. Too, we help developers, realtors, homeowners, businesses and non-profits with research related to their interactions with local government. Our volunteers, working at no cost to the government or anyone else, constantly seek to make a positive contribution to Cecil, its image, and its history.

    This comes at a time when we are working to strengthen the 76-year-old institution. As a result of our renewed commitment we have been busy transforming the organization from a well-resourced research library and museum into an institution offering a broader array of history related programming. To deliver and expand these services, we raised over $45,000 from sources other than the county budget. Our membership of nearly 1,000 is growing, making us the largest membership organization in Cecil and we are the only county-wide heritage group.

    We hope the Board of Commissioners appreciate our role as Cecil’s heritage keepers but in particular we trust the Board values the savings that occur as a result of the professional work done by our volunteers at the request of local government. The Society asks the county to recommit to the nominal allocation, which was has been fixed at the same level for over 10-years, when it was cut in half. In a budget that exceeds $271-million, isn’t our effort worth the allocation?


  1. Wow. All that work for $5,000? Sounds like Cecil County doesn't value the work done by the Historical Society. It is typical for bureaucratic organizations to not value their volunteers, but to take away such a paltry amount does indeed add insult to injury.

    By the looks of the accomplishments, Cecil Co. should double your budget and maybe cut out some pork that benefits their cousins and other family members. ;-) (Nepotism is rampant in WV, but that's just because we're all related. What's Maryland's excuse?)

  2. It is not just W. Va. In Cecil County, all the politicians are related, too: By blood, by marriage or by financial interests. The Cecil Historical Society does a great job. Maybe they should set their services up as a fee for services contract, instead of a non profit group donation. That way if the county wants the Society's help, they have to pay for it.

  3. Volunteers doing county work for practically nothing, what a great way to save the taxpayers money. I see their volunteers even helped decorate that fine new office building. I'll be they were the only volunteers working on that project. What are the commissioners thinking when they say they have to be frugal this year. How could they do better!