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Council passes budget

The $84 million fiscal 2004 budget for the City of Hagerstown raises the city's property tax and some parking meter rates, and e

The $84 million fiscal 2004 budget for the City of Hagerstown raises the city's property tax and some parking meter rates, and e

May 28, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an $84 million fiscal 2004 budget that raises the city's property tax and some parking meter rates but does not change the rate of the meters in the downtown shopping area.

The council last week gave general consensus for approval of the budget for the year that starts July 1.

The city's proposed spending plan includes a property tax rate increase of 1.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. For a home with an assessed value of $150,000, the increase would add $22.50 to the property owner's annual tax bill, city officials have said.

Before the vote Tuesday, Councilman Kristin Aleshire said he wanted to thank city staff for developing and taking cost-cutting measures. Without those measures, the city probably would have needed to increase property tax rates further, he said.

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To balance the budget, city staff had to address a projected $2 million shortfall, which is larger than the shortfall in past years, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said.

While the city balanced the budget during the last two fiscal years mostly with revenue increases through tax and fee increases, for this budget the city wanted to focus instead on cutting expenses, Zimmerman has said.

The proposed budget included about $1.5 million in expense cuts and about $500,000 in revenue increases, he said.

About $700,000 of the shortfall was caused by changes in the proposed state budget, city officials said.

Earlier this month, Finance Director Alfred Martin presented an alternative proposal to increase parking revenues without raising the rates from 25 cents to 50 cents per hour citywide.

Downtown merchants - and about 1,000 people who signed a petition against the proposal - had said the meter rate increase might hurt businesses and downtown revitalization efforts.

Under the alternative plan, the city would increase the monthly permit fees for the parking deck from $40 to $45 and raise parking fines for expired meters from $7 to $10.

While parking meter rates still would go from 25 cents to 50 cents per hour around Washington County Hospital, meters in the downtown shopping area will retain the 25-cents-per-hour rate.

Parking meters in a new Antietam Street lot near Washington County District Court would increase from 50 cents to $1 per hour.

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