Council considers new fees, tax hikes

April 17, 2002|BY DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Looking for ways to bring more money into city coffers, Hagerstown City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said Tuesday the council should look into implementing city impact fees and higher taxes for vacant buildings downtown.

Impact fees would be one-time fees charged to new construction, Mayor William M. Breichner said.

Breichner said city staff should look into whether the city could keep the money from speeding tickets issued in the city. That money now goes to the state, he said.

No decisions were made Tuesday to add new city charges, and council members cut short a discussion of potential revenue sources to give themselves more time to discuss union contract negotiations.


"(Union contracts will) have a bigger impact on the budget than all this," Metzner said.

Before voting to close the meeting to the public to discuss union contract issues, Councilwoman Penny May Nigh handed the council a list of specific budget items she wanted the council to review.

The council did not discuss Nigh's list during the Tuesday meeting.

The council is looking for ways to offset proposed 7.2 percent increases to the city's real estate and business equipment tax rates, which are part of City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman's proposed $79.55 million budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The tax increases would help balance the proposed $25.7 million general fund, which pays for city departments, including police and fire. The proposed general fund calls for an almost $1.2 million increase in spending on city employees' wages and benefits, plus about $500,000 in increased spending on vehicles and construction projects.

The proposed tax increase would cost a Hagerstown homeowner with property assessed at $100,000 an additional $53 next year. That homeowner's city real estate tax bill, $732 this year, would be $785 next year.

A business with equipment assessed at $10,000 would pay an additional $13 next year if the proposed tax increases are approved. That business' equipment tax bill from the city, which is $183 this year, would be $196 next year. Manufacturing equipment and inventory items are exempt from this tax.

The general fund is the only city fund that receives money from city taxes. City funds such as the water and sewer funds depend on income from water and sewer bills.

The proposed budget also calls for the water and sewer rates each to increase 3.5 percent.

A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for April 30 at 7 p.m.

The council is scheduled to approve a new budget on May 28.

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