Tax hike has support on City Council

April 03, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Hagerstown property owners are likely to see their taxes increase on July 1, although by how much has not been determined.

A majority of Hagerstown's five City Council members said Thursday they could support a property tax increase, but not necessarily one as high as the 7-cent hike proposed by City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman.

A 7-cent increase would raise by $28 the annual property taxes on a home with an assessed value of $100,000. Each penny on the tax rate generates about $60,000 in revenue.

"The expectation when we increased the police department was there would be a tax hike," said Councilman William M. Breichner. "I certainly would say that I didn't think it would be that much."


Breichner said he didn't like the idea of raising the property tax rate and water and sewer rates at the same time. He said he hasn't decided which he prefers.

"I personally don't see any realistic way not to raise the tax rate," said Councilman Lewis C. Metzner.

"Nobody wants to raise taxes," but there is little fat to be cut out of an already lean city government, Metzner said. The alternative would be to cut improvement and maintenance projects, he said.

A 7-cent increase might not be unreasonable considering the council hasn't raised the property tax rate in eight years and lowered it a penny three years ago, Metzner said.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he didn't see any way around raising the property tax rate, but thinks the increase could be lower than 7 cents.

The mayor and council will review the proposed budget before they adopt a budget on May 26.

A public hearing on the proposed $73 million budget and tax rate hike will be held in City Hall on Tuesday, April 28, at 7 p.m.

Councilman J. Wallace McClure said members weren't sure about raising the property tax rate as high as 7 cents to $1.77 per $100 of assessed value.

McClure said if a tax rate increase is needed, he could support raising it by one or two pennies.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein declined to comment on the proposed property tax hike.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer was the only elected city official to say he would not support any property tax increase.

"I'm going to do everything in my power to see if we can find ways to trim our expenses to balance our budget without a tax increase," said Boyer, who was reached while on vacation.

Boyer said he couldn't see how the city could avoid increasing water and sewer rates since the water and sewer plants need significant upgrades.

Zimmerman has proposed a 5 percent increase for water customers and a 5.5 percent increase for sewer customers.

Ratepayers will help pay for improvements to the R.C. Willson Water Treatment Plant near Williamsport and the sewer plant off Frederick Street. Property taxes will not fund those projects.

The Herald-Mail Articles