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Readers opinion

July 30, 2005|By Tom Immer

Time for city to get down to business



There is little doubt that the city payroll of Hagerstown is and will continue to eat us out of house and home for the foreseeable future, unless something is done by the mayor and city council ASAP.

Administrator Bruce Zimmerman's 2005-06 budget adopted by the outgoing City Council last May stated that the average city employee will receive a wage and benefit package of $932 weekly (that's $48,000-plus annually) for the 2005-2006 fiscal year, a very comfortable level indeed.

The city payroll spending this year will exceed the anticipated property tax revenue by $4.93 million. Zimmerman's accompanying comments say that, beginning next year, the payroll situation will only get worse because we must increase budgeted funding for future retirements, and that this state requirement will have a "major impact" on funds available for important community-based improvements and all other spending in the well into the future. So what did the re-elected gang of three on the council do? They voted to raise staffing levels by 11 positions more than last year, totally ignoring these warnings.

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There are several other interesting comments in the 2005-06 budget message. Zimmerman speaks of the 2-plus-2 joint committee that has not been able to accomplish much that actually benefits the city, and that the effects of rapid growth in the county are very much detrimental to city finances.

Zimmerman says he hopes that the 2-plus-2 committee (with council members Kristin Aleshire and Lewis Metzner) can accomplish something, but he does not hold out any hope that it can do so. Last year, the city discovered that the light department could no longer pay the $400,000 "dividend" to the city's community betterment fund to fund capital improvements and other important community needs. So nothing will be spent in this area in 2005-06, even though Zimmerman says that the city has been derelict in this area for several years because of funding constraints resulting from low growth inside the city limits.

The proposed budget was roundly accepted by council members Aleshire, Metzner and Penny Nigh of the present council. Do you think that these people acted responsibly given Zimmerman's comments about future funding problems facing the city? Do you think that Metzner and Aleshire are accomplishing anything to benefit the city taxpayer in their discussions with the county? Metzner and Aleshire would be well advised to start solving the major revenue disparity caused by the development in the county areas adjacent to the city.

Nigh and Kelly Cromer would be well advised to direct their attention to the very real problems facing the city instead of the petty sniping they are presently engaged in against our mayor just to advance their own silly agendas.

I notice that Aleshire, Metzner and Alesia Parson-McBean are not presently engaged in this childish nonsense. Maybe all of the city politicians can now concentrate on reigning in the runaway costs instead of accepting a 9.4 percent increase in city spending.

I have suggested several options available to the council in past articles; it is time they got on with at least discussing them. Zimmerman brags that the budget includes no increase in the city tax rate, as if this meant something to taxpaying property owners. My city property taxes will increase by about 16 percent this year over last year; if this is the city management's idea of holding the line on taxes, they must think we taxpayers are just plain stupid.

Tom Immer is a resident of

Hagerstown.

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