Options sought on funding new police officers

April 30, 1997


Staff Writer

Hagerstown officials said Tuesday night that a tax increase or an anticipated surplus in this year's budget could be used to fund additional police protection.

Officials held public hearings Tuesday on the city's proposed 1997-98 budget and tax rate. No residents commented during the hearings.

The City Council will vote on the budget on Tuesday, May 13.

Officials also discussed Tuesday proposals to beef up the police and fire departments.

The mayor and City Council members are considering proposals to hire up to seven additional police officers, a dispatcher and two firefighters.

Mayor Steven T. Sager said a $237,000 surplus this fiscal year could help fund the added police officers so the council wouldn't have to raise the property tax rate, which is now $1.70 per $100 of assessed value.


City officials might be able to put off a tax rate increase for at least two years by using the surplus, Sager said.

Councilman William Breichner said he doesn't want to raise the tax rate but is hesitant to rely on a surplus that is uncertain.

The alternative to using the surplus is raising the tax rate 2 cents next year or cutting the budget in other areas, said City Finance Director Al Martin. The expected cost of the added police personnel and related expenses for the upcoming fiscal year is $320,000.

Each penny on the tax rate generates $57,000 in revenue.

Councilman Mark Jameson said he wouldn't support a tax increase. Council members Lewis Metzner and Fred Kramer said they would prefer to use the surplus but would support a tax increase if necessary.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein said she hasn't decided what funding source she would prefer.

A tax increase may not be needed if the council approves Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker's request for two more paid firefighters, Martin said.

Each firefighter would cost $34,135. If the firefighters were hired, the city could save $40,000, including $28,000 in overtime, Hawbaker said.

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