Proposed city budget keeps taxes stable

April 02, 1997


Staff Writer

Hagerstown's property tax and utility rates would not increase in the fiscal year beginning July 1 under the city administrator's $73 million proposed budget presented to Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman's proposed budget calls for a spending increase of about $8 million - or 12.3 percent - over the city's current $65 million budget.

The proposed budget does not show increases in water, sewer or electrical rates. It also holds the line on the city's property tax rate of $1.70 per $100 of assessed value, Zimmerman said.


Golf fees also would not increase, he said.

Zimmerman said, however, that despite a possible one-year moratorium on water and sewer rate hikes, those rates are expected to increase each year for several years starting in fiscal year 1998 to 1999.

Zimmerman said that although his budget proposal does not include utility rate hikes, the City Council's budget could include such increases. Council's spending plan also could include funding for additional police officers, he said.

A public hearing on the proposed budget and property tax rate will be held at 7 p.m. in City Hall on Tuesday, April 29.

City Council members are expected to adopt a budget on Tuesday, May 13.

Zimmerman is proposing budgeting $11 million for salaries for 298 city employees who are paid from the general fund, said City Finance Director Al Martin.

That's $409,046 more than the amount budgeted for salaries in the current fiscal year and includes raises for workers paid through the general fund and funding for five new positions, Martin said.

General fund workers include police, fire officials, supervisors and managers.

The increase also includes pay hikes for police officers, who are in the process of negotiating a new contract with the city, Martin said.

Projects such as the ice rink, water and sewer facility upgrades, and a new radio dispatch system for city police would contribute to increased spending under the proposal, Zimmerman said.

The budget also includes $400,000 in the city's newly established community betterment fund. Zimmerman proposes using half of that $400,000 to maintain and operate Hagerstown Fairgrounds and to buy a water slide for Potterfield Pool off Frederick Street.

City Council members might decide to spend some of the betterment funds on neighborhood improvements, he said.

The fund was created this year using $400,000 transferred from the City Light reserve fund. In the future the fund also will get money from 1st Urban Fiber's annual host fee, an amount 1st Urban will pay the city for granting the company permission to build the paper recycling plant here.

Of the $677,298 budgeted for the ice rink being built at the fairgrounds, $534,207 is the city's final payment on its $1.2 million share of construction costs. The $1.2 million is to be paid back through rent by the nonprofit organization that will operate the rink.

City officials expect to end the fiscal year with a $94,286 surplus in the general fund thanks to the mild winter with little snow to be cleared from streets, and unexpected personal property tax revenue, Martin said.

The city received the fiscal year 1996 property assessment for Good Humor-Breyer's Ice Cream, Inc. late so the property tax of about $250,000 wasn't collected until this year, Martin said.

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