Council members say 'small' property tax increase likely

April 04, 2001

Council members say 'small' property tax increase likely


A tax increase for Hagerstown property owners is likely but probably will be less than a proposed 10.5 percent hike, Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and a majority of City Council members said Tuesday.

No decisions have been made yet on the proposed $74.8 million city budget, which includes the tax hike and a variety of fee increases for the 2001-2002 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

But three of the five council members said $22,000 for a New Year's Eve event should be cut from the spending plan.


To reduce the proposed tax increase, the mayor and council must cut next year's budget or find other ways to raise money.

A 10.5 percent tax increase would cost a city homeowner with a $100,000 home an additional $73 a year, raising that homeowner's $692 annual city tax bill to $765.

The proposed tax hike would generate almost $1.3 million in additional revenue for the city.

Bruchey and councilmen Lewis C. Metzner, Alfred W. Boyer and J. Wallace McClure said a tax increase is likely, but added that it probably won't be as high as 10.5 percent. They declined to estimate how much the increase may be.

Councilman William M. Breichner said, "there's an outside chance we might have a small tax increase."

Breichner said he would be "surprised" if the council increased the tax rate 10.5 percent.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein did not comment on the proposed budget.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman, who prepared the proposed budget, presented a spending plan with the proposed tax increase and a list of items he said would be paid for with the money from a tax increase.

Items funded with the proposed tax increase include the New Year's Eve event, raises for some police and firefighters, the annual street repaving program, and $100,000 for an expanded economic development program.

Councilmen Boyer, McClure and Metzner said the $22,000 for the New Year's event should be cut.

"When things get this tight it's not the time for frivolity," McClure said.

The city's real estate tax rate is currently 69.2 cents per $100 of assessed value. Under the proposed budget, that rate would increase by 7.3 cents to 76.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Each penny of the tax rate is worth about $177,000 in revenue to the city. This means the Mayor and council would have to cut $177,000 from the proposed budget to afford a 1 cent drop in the proposed tax rate.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for May 1. The council is expected to take a final vote on the budget May 22. The City Charter requires the council to adopt a budget by the end of May.

The Mayor and council agreed to discuss the proposed budget during their next meeting, which begins 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 10.

The proposed budget also calls for increasing the trash collection fee by $4 a year, raising water rates 3.5 percent, increasing sewer rates 3 percent, and creating a fire service charge of $250 per response by the fire department. Council members have discussed implementing a fire response fee, but only if they could ensure residents' insurance companies would pay the bill and residents would not have to pay out of their own pockets.

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