No property tax hike in proposed city budget

Sewer and water rate increases likely

Sewer and water rate increases likely

May 25, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- Hagerstown residents won't get hit with a property tax increase if the city's proposed budget for fiscal year 2009-2010 passes as presented.

The City Council is to vote Tuesday on the $160.1 million budget, which is $3.7 million lower than this fiscal year's $163.8 million spending plan.

Even though a property tax increase isn't proposed, the city stands to bring in almost $2 million in new property tax revenues, City Finance Director Alfred Martin said. That revenue will come primarily from new construction and increases in real estate assessments.

The city's property tax revenues were about $23.9 million in fiscal year 2008-09, according to budget statistics. Property tax revenues for the coming fiscal year are expected to be about $25.6 million.


Martin said the city could generate the same amount of property tax revenue in the coming fiscal year as it did in FY 2008-09 by decreasing the property tax rate from 78.8 cents to 73.2 cents for every $100 of assessed value of real estate, but that probably won't happen.

"We couldn't do that," Martin said. "Every other revenue source that the city is dealing with fell significantly ... It's been a challenging time for the city and all governments with the economic downturn."

Another highlight in the budget involves a possible rate increase for water and sewer customers.

Martin said city officials won't know if or by how much water and sewer rates would increase until consultants finish a study this summer. Preliminary figures, however, estimate that water rates could increase by as much as 12.75 percent, and sewer rates could increase up to 11.5 percent, he said. If increases are needed, they would take effect Oct. 1.

Martin said the city will save about $376,000 in the upcoming budget when 10 emergency dispatchers and one supervisor are transferred to the consolidated 911 center. When that happens, the dispatchers will become Washington County employees, Martin said.

The budget also calls for the hiring of two police officers.

Martin said the annual salaries and benefits for those two positions, or about $112,000, will be paid in full for the first three years by a federal grant.

The city's general fund -- the primary fund of government that pays for services not linked to utilities -- totals $40.5 million in the proposed budget.

Of the 22 earmarks in the General Fund, about $18.7 million will be used to fund the Hagerstown Fire and Police departments, according to the proposed budget. Streets, Alleys and Signals will receive $3.1 million and Engineering and Code Administration will receive $2.62 million.

Martin said residents are welcome to stop by City Hall at 1 E. Franklin St. to view the budget.

"We're here to make things as transparent as possible," Martin said. "People want to know how their money is being spent. It is our duty to help them."

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