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City sewer rates to rise, remain lowest in county

April 04, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - Hagerstown's sewer rates would remain among the lowest in Washington County despite a plan to raise them as part of the proposed 2007-08 budget, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said Tuesday.

Zimmerman said during a City Council work session that the sewer rates would remain "competitive."

The $157.2 million budget proposal calls for increasing the sewer rates 8.5 percent for customers living within the city and 16 percent for customers living outside the city.

City Finance Director Alfred Martin said revenue from the sewer rate increases would be used to pay for operations and upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant.

The proposed increase would cost city customers an additional $4.28 per quarter, he said.

Sewer rates would increase about $13.23 per quarter for customers living outside the city, he said.

Those increases are based on 13,000 gallons of quarterly usage, Martin said.

The county charges more than twice as much for sewer service as the city, according to statistics in the proposed budget. Those statistics show that only Martinsburg, W.Va., charges less than Hagerstown in the Tri-State area.

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Zimmerman said in an interview before the work session that the city is counting on increased property tax revenues to help offset the cost of hiring 10 firefighters last year, and nine firefighters and two police officers this year.

"The city is growing," he said. "Public safety is a priority."

The proposed budget shows that the nine firefighters would cost the city about $534,042 per year in salary and benefits.

The two police officers would cost about $123,206.

Zimmerman said, however, the city will pay a portion of the police officers' salaries and benefits with federal grants.

The budget proposal doesn't include a property tax increase, so to generate revenue in that fund, city officials are counting on future housing developments, Zimmerman said.

"Development is always going to be crucial to our budget," he said.

The city also is relying on property taxes to help pay the cost of perpetually increasing health benefits for city workers, Zimmerman said.

Health-care costs are expected to reach $6.6 million this year for the city's active and retired employees, he said. That figure is expected to roughly double in the next 5 1/2 years, he said.

Zimmerman said city employees agreed last May to pay more of their health-care costs to alleviate the strain on the city's coffers.

Hagerstown's charter requires that the City Council adopt a budget by June 1 each year.




City budget highlights



Highlights of the City of Hagerstown's $157.2 million proposed budget:

· Public safety, $19.7 million

· General government, $5.47 million

· Streets and alleys, $2.36 million

· Parks and recreation, $2.34 million

· Unallocated expenses, $2.3 million

· Debt service, $2.08 million

· Waste collection, $2.05 million

· Capital Improvement Program appropriations, $1.2 million

· Municipal buildings, $576,532

· Operating transfers, $200,000

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