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Decision still out on Smithsburg budget

June 10, 1999|By ERIN HEATH

After over an hour of discussion at a special meeting Thursday night, the Smithsburg Town Council decided to call it quits without making a decision about their fiscal 2000 budget.

Councilmen David Williams and Thomas Hornbecker voted to approve the budget while Charles Slick and Michael Rohrer abstained, prompting Mayor Tommy Bowers to call a five-minute recess to decide what to do.

"I've never seen a situation like this in my 11 years on the council," Slick said.

The point of dispute was the proposed increase in the town's water and sewer rates of 38 percent for in-town users and 46 percent for out-of-town users.

When the meeting resumed, Bowers suggested he cast the tie-breaking vote, but Rohrer cited a rule that requires a majority of the five council members - three - to vote on an ordinance.

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Councilman James Cunningham III was not at the meeting because he was attending his daughter's graduation.

With the two abstentions not counting as votes, the council did not have the necessary three votes.

Slick and Rohrer said they both disapproved of the proposed increases, but if they had voted against the budget, the mayor could have voted to break the tie. The mayor can vote only in the instance of a tie.

Because Bowers wanted to approve the budget, the two councilmen decided to abstain to prevent him from breaking a tie.

"If we had said no, the mayor would have been able to vote, and (the budget) would have passed," Slick said. "We were not in favor of the water and sewer increases. We felt it was too great an increment."

Under the proposal, the average in-town customer would see an increase of about $120 a year, while the average out-of-town bill would go up about $174. Customers would get the first bills at the higher rates in October, Bowers said.

Slick and Rohrer said they preferred a 26 percent in-town increase and a 38 percent out-of-town increase.

Bowers said a greater increase would allow the council "more breathing room" in reaching the goal of a 10 percent profit that could be used for future physical improvements.

After more discussion and another recess, the council agreed to postpone the budget decision until next week when all members could be present. The special meeting will be held at 8 p.m. Monday, June 14, at the Town Hall.

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