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Council to adopt tax hike

May 20, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

The Hagerstown City Council is expected to adopt a 4-cent property tax hike next Tuesday and delay proposed increases to water and sewer rates.

The council is expected to adopt the proposed $73 million budget at its 7 p.m. regular meeting in Council Chambers on the second floor of City Hall.

Council members decided Tuesday afternoon to fund the replacement of 50 benches in City Park with $13,000 of the $33,000 the city will save in pension costs because of state relief.

That move cuts $13,000 from the general fund budget, allowing the proposed tax hike to be reduced another penny to four cents.

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Last week council members made several budget cuts, dropping the tax hike from 7 cents to 5 cents.

The remaining $20,000 from the $33,000 pension savings would be put in a contingency fund, said City Finance Director Al Martin.

The contingency funds could be used for unexpected costs such as snow removal in case of a severe winter or for police overtime, according to Martin.

Council members decided against increasing the proposed $549,999 for police overtime for the fiscal year starting July 1. Police overtime is expected to exceed $750,000 this fiscal year.

The city property tax hike would be the first since fiscal 1990-1991, when it was raised from $1.68 per $100 of assessed value to $1.71. The previous administration cut the tax rate by a penny to $1.70 per $100 of assessed value for fiscal 1995-1996.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer said he wanted to cut the tax hike by at least another penny.

Boyer said he doesn't believe the property tax assessment will be as flat as predicted. Flat assessments expected in the coming years have prompted many city officials to expect tight financial years ahead.

Boyer wasn't the only one optimistic about property tax assessments.

Former Councilman Ira Kauffman Jr. said he didn't believe the assessable base for property taxes would be static, especially with the city annexing land where a planned $40 million shopping center will be built.

Kauffman was one of two people to speak at a second public hearing held on the proposed budget. City officials decided to hold another hearing because the first one was held the same time as Washington County's budget hearing.

Halfway resident Steve McAbee expressed his frustration about proposed rate increases for Municipal Golf Course.

"The golfers kind of feel like they've been singled out and picked on," said McAbee, a former city resident who has played the course for 33 years.

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