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Hagerstown City Council approves $79.36 million budget

May 29, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday approved a $79.36 million budget that increases taxes, trash fees, and water and sewer rates in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

In separate votes, the council approved the budget and budget-related rates and fees.

All of the votes were unanimous on the decisions to increase the city water and sewer rates 3.5 percent on Oct. 1. Council members Penny May Nigh and Kristin B. Aleshire opposed those measures.

Nigh said she thought the rate increases should have been discussed further and would hit low-income water and sewer customers too hard.

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Aleshire said he thought water and sewer customers outside the city limits should be made to pay higher rates than those in the city.

Together, the increases will cost the average water and sewer customer, who uses 13,000 gallons of water every three months, an additional $8.24 a year.

That customer's water bill, now $17.55 every three months, will increase to $18.16 every three months.

That customer's sewer bill, now $41.47 every three months, will increase to $42.92 every three months.

The budget for the current fiscal year is $74.88 million, Assistant Finance Director Ray Foltz said.

The council approved a 4.9 percent increase to the city real estate and business property tax rates.

To homeowners whose properties are assessed at $100,000, the increase will add $36 to their annual tax bills.

To business owners with equipment valued at $100,000, the increase will add $90 to their annual tax bills, Foltz said.

The approved tax increases are less than the 7.2 percent tax increases City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman's proposed budget originally called for. But the council made about $300,000 worth of changes to Zimmerman's proposed budget, and used the changes to lessen the ultimate tax increase.

Among those changes was the council's decision to raise the city trash collection fee by $2 a year.

The council also raised the price of city golf course season passes for people living outside the city.

The tax increases help balance the $25.57 million city general fund, which calls for increased spending, including about $1.2 million to cover the additional cost of employee wages and benefits and about $500,000 in increased spending on vehicles and construction projects.

The general fund is the only city fund that receives money from city taxes. Other funds, such as water and sewer, receive money from user rates and fees.

Staff writer Dan Kulin contributed to this story.

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