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Proposed budget at $134.4 million

April 01, 2006|By TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN

The City of Hagerstown on Friday released a proposed $134.4 million total budget for fiscal 2006-07 that calls for 13 new full-time employees, pay step increases and a 3 percent cost-of-living raise for employees.

The proposed budget also calls for issuing a $2.5 million bond to go toward downtown revitalization efforts.

Two new police cadets are included in the proposed budget, but new firefighters are not.

The proposed budget, which would go into effect July 1, does not include a property tax rate increase.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman, however, outlined two other budget scenarios in which the City Council could raise taxes to pay for more new positions, including nine firefighters.

In early March, Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker asked the city for 18 new firefighters and a training and safety officer. Hawbaker said the fire department had a manpower shortage that put the safety of the community at risk.

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Along with two police cadets, the 13 new full-time positions proposed include five water and sewer jobs, an evidence custodian and a laboratory technician for the Hagerstown Police Department, an economic development job, a recruitment and employee relations position, a planner and a meter reader.

It also calls for the elimination of two positions - the water production maintenance foreman and the director of administrative services, which has been vacant since spring 2005, according to the proposed budget.

With those positions gone, the city would have a net gain of 11 new full-time positions. The new jobs would increase the number of full-time employees from 462 to 473.

The proposed step and 3 percent cost-of-living increases for employees would cost a little more than $1 million, according to the proposed budget.

Should the City Council decide to implement the first year of a "wage and benefit program," which calls for additional pay increases for employees, the city would need an additional $1.57 million.

The proposed total budget is $26.2 million higher than the current budget of $108.2 million, an increase of 24.2 percent.

The total budget includes a number of funds, such as the general, capital improvement project and Community Development Block Grant funds.

The proposed general fund is $34.1 million - $3.4 million more than the $30.7 million general fund for the current year.

The city anticipates receiving $910,000 from Washington County's excise tax in the current fiscal year and $970,000 in fiscal year 2006-07, according to the proposed budget.

The other two budget options, which Zimmerman refers to in a budget overview as "Tier One," would include a tax rate increase of 1.68 cents to provide additional money to fully implement the first year of a wage and benefit program.

The city's current tax rate is 79.8 cents for every $100 of assessed value.

"Tier Two" would include a tax increase of 1.86 cents, which would pay for three new police officers, nine firefighters and a fire training captain.

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