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Cuts proposed to City of Hagerstown budget

April 03, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

To balance the City of Hagerstown's proposed $84.1 million budget for the coming fiscal year, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman suggests the city make $1.5 million in cuts, including eliminating some employees' cost of living increases and delaying replacement of some vehicles and computer equipment.

Zimmerman's proposed spending plan also includes $500,000 in revenue hikes, including a property tax rate increase of 1.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The city estimated the tax increase would raise an additional $277,500.

For a home with an assessed value of $150,000, the increase would add $22.50 to the property owner's annual tax bill, he said.

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A budget proposal to increase parking rates downtown has sparked some criticism from downtown merchants.

Zimmerman's budget proposal suggests reducing by $425,000 over prior projections the amount of general fund money spent for capital improvement projects. That would delay parts of the street overlay program.

The proposed budget includes money to pay for 2.5 percent cost of living allowance increases for the city's 322 union positions but not for the 131 nonunion employees, city spokeswoman Karen Giffin said. The raise is subject to mayor and city council approval and contract negotiations, she said.

The budget calls for cutting in half the sick leave buy-back program for nonunion employees. But the program for employees in the city's four union groups can't be changed until new contract language is negotiated, Giffin said.

Under that program, employees can choose to sell some of their unused sick days back to the city each year.

The program cost the city $271,019 during the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2002, Giffin said.

Under the proposal, nonunion city employees would be given one day's pay for every two sick days, Zimmerman said. Currently, employees get a day's pay for each sick day they sell back.

The change should save the city about $48,500, Zimmerman said.

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