2001 Hagerstown budget

April 01, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

A year after Hagerstown officials struggled to balance the city budget, ultimately laying off one worker, the Mayor and City Council are being presented with a slightly smaller budget that adds four people to the city staff.

The proposed budget includes several rate and fee increases, but most are not as significant as the changes made last year. It also includes funds to help pay for preliminary study and design work for a new baseball stadium.

The proposed fiscal 2000-2001 budget, prepared by Hagerstown City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman, calls for $64.4 million in spending, down from the $65 million in spending approved last year. The property tax rate remains at $1.73 per $100 of assessed value, and there are no layoffs in the spending plan.

One firefighter, a police officer and a two-person downtown cleaning crew would be added to the city ranks under Zimmerman's budget proposal, which was made public Friday afternoon.


Meanwhile, residents would pay more for trash collection, golf, and water and sewer service under Zimmerman's proposed budget.

The Mayor and City Council are scheduled to begin their public review of the proposed budget Tuesday.

There is $120,000 in the proposed budget to help pay for preliminary design and engineering work for a new baseball stadium. The total cost of the studies, which could include construction drawings and cost estimates, is $480,000, with state and Washington county funds making up the difference.

There has been no final decision from the state or county on whether or how much they will contribute.

A new stadium would replace Municipal Stadium, which the city is projected to support with a $108,000 subsidy next year.

There is an effort under way to secure funding for a proposed $12 million to $15 million stadium/railroad museum.

The trash collection fee is proposed to increase $2 a year. Residents' trash bills would increase from $20.50 every three months to $21 - or $84 annually.

Last year, the trash collection fee was increased from $50 to $82 annually when the mayor and council made trash collection a user fee-supported service. That increase freed up the money to fund a 1-cent reduction in the property tax rate.

Under this year's proposed budget, a round of golf at Municipal Golf Course would cost 75 cents more. The cost of one-year passes are proposed to increase from $165 to $200 for individuals and from $275 to $330 for families. The six-month pass would be discontinued.

A proposed 3.5 percent water rate increase and a 3 percent sewer rate increase were expected. Increases have been projected in past budgets, and future increases are also projected.

The rate increases would help fund capital improvements at the city's water and sewage treatment facilities. The city's R.C. Willson Water Treatment Plant is in line to undergo $1.4 million in improvements. The city's water pollution control plant has $1.3 million in proposed improvements planned.

The new water and sewer rates would be effective Oct. 1.

Hiring one new police officer would bring the total number of sworn city officers to 100. The new officer would be funded through a state grant, according to the budget proposal.

An additional firefighter would fill a position intentionally left vacant last year to save money. Zimmerman's budget proposes staffing a fourth captain position to oversee the fire department's training program.

Two part-time workers would be added to the city Public Works Department under the proposal. The workers would be assigned to clean up the downtown area and would probably use a new sidewalk cleaning machine, similar to a mini-street sweeper.

The Mayor and City Council members on Friday declined to comment on the proposed budget because they hadn't reviewed it yet. But several said the city's overall financial situation is better than it was last year.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he did not anticipate any surprises.

Last year, city officials had to cut $1.1 million from the general fund budget. This year's shortfall was about $270,000, and Zimmerman and members of the city staff were able to balance the budget.

The mayor and council's budget review sessions that begin Tuesday will continue at least through April. A final council vote on the budget is expected May 23.

The budget goes into effect July 1.

Zimmerman's proposed budget includes a $22.5 million general fund budget, which is almost 3 percent higher than the current general fund budget.

The general fund is the city's general operating account supporting such departments as police, fire, public works and engineering and inspections. Other city funds, such as water and water pollution control, are supported by user fees.

The general fund is the only fund supported by property taxes. About 53 percent of proposed general fund revenues would come from the property tax.

In the proposed general fund budget, the police department would receive about $7.4 million, a 2.5 percent increase, and the fire department would receive about $3.5 million, a 4.4 percent increase.

The increases are largely due to added costs of wages and fringe benefits, according to the proposed budget.

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