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City Council projects $1.2 million deficit in next fiscal year

January 30, 2002

City Council projects $1.2 million deficit in next fiscal year



By DAN KULIN
dank@herald-mail.com


The City of Hagerstown's general fund is projected to run a $1.2 million deficit in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, according to revised city estimates released Tuesday.

Prior to Tuesday, next year's general fund, which is the only fund that receives money from city property taxes, was projected to have a $1.5 million deficit.

City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner, who has long said a tax increase probably will be needed to balance the budget, said a $1.2 million deficit seems like a large deficit to overcome.

"We'll know a lot more Friday. My gut tells me that's still a big number, but we're going in the right direction," he said.

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The mayor and council are scheduled to hold a special meeting to discuss the budget on Friday at 9 a.m. on the second floor of Roccoco's restaurant at 20 W. Washington St.

Also Tuesday, the City Council unanimously approved changes to the city's financial policies, which included deleting a line that stated the "property tax rate will be increased only as a last resort."

Metzner said the change simply cleared up the meaning of point No. 5 on the policy, which also states that the city will make every effort to maintain existing levels of services.

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said that even though that line was deleted, raising taxes will be seen as a last resort.

Another change to the policy added the words "property tax rates" to a section that now states, "The city will annually review its fees and other charges for service, property tax rates, and utilize annual incremental increases in these to ensure that the city is maintaining existing levels of essential public services."

"There are two ways to look at things," Metzner said. "One, this is the money you have and pay for the services you can. Or you can say these are the services we have to supply and this is the money we need to do that."

The general fund is the city's main operating fund. It pays for departments such as police, fire and public works. The general fund is also the only city fund that receives money from property taxes.

According to revised projections, the general fund will have an estimated $24.6 million in revenues, which includes almost $13.7 million in property taxes.

General fund expenses are expected to be about $25.8 million in the coming fiscal year.

The mayor and council are faced with balancing the revenues and expenses to put together a balanced budget.

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