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City residents decry rate hikes at hearing

May 02, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Proposed increases to golf course fees, Hagerstown Light Department surpluses, and the property tax rate were among the issues raised during a Tuesday evening public hearing on the city's $64.4 million proposed budget.

In response to a question from Roy Funk, of Hagerstown, City Finance Director Al Martin said the Light Fund has about a $1.3 million surplus.

Funk said, "(It's) not supposed to be a profit making operation. I'm overpaying on my light bill."

Funk asked for a referendum on government funding for a proposed $15 million stadium complex.

Harry McAbee, of Hagerstown, questioned proposed 75-cent increases to daily fees at Municipal Golf Course.

He said it would be unfair to increase the cost of playing nine holes and the cost of playing 18 holes by the same amount, because they are different percentages of the current costs.

McAbee and his son Steve, who also spoke at the hearing, also were critical of the maintenance of the golf course.

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Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and Councilman J. Wallace McClure suggested the McAbees meet with city officials to discuss their concerns.

Ira P. Kauffman Jr. who has filed as a candidate for City Council for the 2001 elections, said the council should lower the property tax rate to the constant yield tax rate.

The property tax rate is proposed to remain at $1.73 per $100 of assessed value. Because of increases in property assessments, average city property owners will see their tax bills increase.

For example, a resident who owns a $100,000 home, and whose assessment is set to increase by the city average would pay about $12 more in city property taxes. A constant yield tax rate of $1.70 per $100 of assessed value, would negate that increase.

Kauffman, a city councilman from 1977 to 1981, said the city could offset the roughly $200,000 a tax cut would cost by taking money from city reserve accounts. He said the city has more than $4.3 million "in the bank."

He presented the mayor and council with a long list of budget cuts that add up to about $200,000.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said that when Kauffman was on the council, the city cut and then raised the tax rate. "Did you cut budgets or increase budgets?" he asked.

"I did a little bit of both. I did what I thought was right," Kauffman said.

Howard Kaylor, who said he was not speaking on behalf of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, asked the City Council to give the museum $50,000 a year.

Kaylor said the city has given $12,000 to the museum for years.

The Mayor and City Council are expected to discuss the proposed budget next Tuesday. The council is scheduled to take a final vote on the budget May 23. The budget takes effect July 1.

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