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Council candidate suggests buget cuts

May 04, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Ira P. Kauffman Jr., a former Hagerstown City Council member who is running for a seat on the council, says he spent three days combing through the more than 500 pages in the proposed city budget looking for items to cut.

On Tuesday, Kauffman gave the Mayor and City County his recommendations: 27 specific cuts totaling $228,300.

"I went through the budget and looked at things and cut what I thought could be cut without affecting public safety or wages," Kauffman said.

His proposed cuts include:

-- $6,000 from the Fire Department's clothing budget, which would leave that line item with a little more than was spent this year.

- $46,000 from the Police Department's $7.4 million budget.

"It's a less than 1 percent cut. ... I have confidence in the new chief," Kauffman said.

- $30,000 for improvements to Municipal Stadium. "They are doing without them as we speak," he said.

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- $45,000 for the Hamilton Run Greenway, a recreational trail to connect several city parks. "This is something new that can probably be put off," he said.

With his recommendations, the city could afford to lower the property tax rate 3 cents, which would offset anticipated increases in tax bills paid by average property owners because of an increase to their property assessment, he said.

Under the current proposed budget, the property tax rate would remain at $1.73 per $100 of assessed value. But because of increases to annual property assessments, someone who owns a $100,000 home who saw their assessment increase by the average amount for Hagerstown, about 1.7 percent, would see their tax bill go up about $12.

To offset the increase in property assessments, the property tax rate would have to be decreased to $1.70 per $100 of assessed value. Kauffman, who served on the council from 1977 to 1981, is asking for that tax rate.

Kauffman, 67, a retired CIA worker, said he'd rather use some of the city's $4.3 million available general fund reserves to pay for a tax cut.

"My preference is to use the surplus and adopt everything in the (proposed) budget," he said.

But he wanted to give the mayor and council an alternative.

"I'm doing this to give the people on fixed incomes and low incomes a chance to exist," he said.

The City Council is to continue discussing the $64.4 million proposed budget on Tuesday. A final council vote on the budget is expected May 23. The budget takes effect July 1.

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