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City residents could see rate increases

April 08, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Even if Hagerstown's property tax rate remains the same, an average homeowner in a $100,000 home could pay the city at least $21 more in increased rates and fees under the budget proposed for the next fiscal year.

If that homeowner is an avid golfer who works downtown and has two children who take swimming lessons at the city pool, they could pay as much as $134 in additional city charges.

Those figures include estimated annual increases of $12 in property taxed at a higher assessed value, $7 for water and sewer, $2 for trash collection, $15 each for the children's swimming lessons, $35 for a Municipal Golf year pass, and $48 for parking deck parking permits.

Under the proposed budget for the 2000-2001 fiscal year, Hagerstown's property tax rate would remain at $1.73 per $100 of assessed value. But the average homeowner's tax bill would increase if their assessment, which is done by the state, increases.

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In Hagerstown the average increase in assessed value is expected to be 1.7 percent, which would raise the tax bill on a $100,000 home about $12.

City Councilman William M. Breichner said the property tax rate will probably remain unchanged, as is proposed.

Breichner sees the increased tax payments resulting from higher assessment as inflationary.

When asked about the other proposed increases in fees and rates, Breichner said: "Most of them we can live with. We'll still take a closer look at them."

Breichner said a proposal to increase the annual trash collection fee from $82 to $84, though not a large amount, may not be necessary.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer suggested last week that the council look into eliminating curbside paper recycling service to avoid the fee increase. Breichner likes Boyer's idea and said the city should look into how much money would be saved by cutting the recycling.

Breichner said most of the proposed rate and fee increases seem justifiable because they would keep up with rising costs and help maintain or reduce current subsidy levels.

Swimming lessons and daily fees at the city's Claude M. Potterfield Pool are projected to increase. The city's subsidy for the pool is projected to be about $122,000, slightly down from $125,000 this year.

Several fee increases are proposed at Municipal Golf Course, where the city's subsidy is expected to remain about $55,000.

Daily greens fees would cost 75 cents more, and year passes for individuals, now $165, would go to $200. Year passes for families, now $275, would be $330.

The increases would go into effect in January 2001.

Several Hagerstown golfers interviewed last week said they didn't mind the proposed increases.

"Two-hundred (dollars) is not bad. It's pretty cheap especially considering (fees at) other courses," said Bill Smith, 68, of Hagerstown.

"It's reasonable. ... This is just a sign of the times," said Bill Harper.

Harper, 80, of Hagerstown, said he'd rather see higher user fees than a property tax increase.

"It's more fair," Smith said.

Proposed water and sewer rate increases would add about $7 a year to the average homeowner's bill. Water rates would increase 3.5 percent, and sewer rates would increase 3 percent.

Both increases would take effect Oct. 1.

According to the city billing office, the average water and sewer customer pays $55.51 for 13,000 gallons of water every three months.

The quarterly bill can be broken down to $16.38 for water and $39.13 for sewer. Both bills are based on water usage.

Under the proposed rate increases, that quarterly water and sewer bill would increase almost $1.75 to $57.18. The annual water and sewer cost would rise by about $7 from $222.04 to $229.03

Breichner said the council would "take a harder look" at the proposed water and sewer rate increases. But he expected the increases will be approved.

The rate and fee increases are part of the $64.4 million proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled May 2. The council is expected to make a final vote May 23.

See related budget information: Proposed budget fees for the 2000-2001 fiscal year

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