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Try to hold the line on taxes

April 04, 2006

Everyone who manages a household budget knows the drill. When your costs go up and your salary doesn't, something's got to give.

No doubt Hagerstown residents experienced that this winter, when fuel prices took a big jump. People coped by turning down the thermostat, eliminating some extras, or in some cases, asking for government help.

That's what Hagerstown citizens need to do, in regard to the city's proposed $134.4 million budget, which would be a 24.2 percent increase over the current $108.2 million figure.

There is no tax increase proposed in this version, but City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman has proposed two other options which would require tax increases to up city employee pay and add new police and firefighters.

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Last year's budget was passed without a tax increase only because of soaring property assessments. But for the last four out of five years, the rate has been increased - plus any growth in assessments.

City government cannot increase the property tax rate every year, or even every five out of six years. It must find new revenue sources or tighten its belt, for two reasons.

As we have said previously, increasing taxes every year will discourage new homeowners and business investment. But if government restrains itself fiscally, it will demonstrate to citizens that it knows they're being squeezed financially and is more than willing to share their pain.

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