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Williamsport budget includes economic development employee

June 14, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WILLIAMSPORT - The Williamsport Town Council on Monday approved a $3.76 million budget for the next fiscal year, a 5 percent cut in spending from the current year.

The council voted to raise town property taxes, but the county rate is dropping more, giving town property owners a net savings.

The town also is raising its water rate 4 percent, passing along an increase from Hagerstown, which sells water to the town.

The town's sewer rate will go up 7.5 percent.

That includes a 4 percent sewer rate increase from Washington County, Mayor James G. McCleaf II said.

The town is adding 3.5 percent more and transferring nearly $33,000 from the general fund to fill a water and sewer deficit.

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There was little comment until a public hearing was held on the budget.

Town resident Doug Gigeous questioned why the town will spend $60,000 in salary and $16,000 in health insurance for an economic development employee in the coming year.

McCleaf replied that the town is concentrating on improving its downtown. That money covers one year of Michael Sparks as a full-time economic development employee.

After a year, the position will be part-time and the town will decide how to fill it, McCleaf said.

Sparks started working for the town May 1, McCleaf said in an interview later.

Through the company Inspired Communication, Sparks previously completed a $25,000 study of Williamsport's downtown. The town liked his work and hired him, the mayor said.

The town's newly approved $3.76 million budget takes effect July 1, when the 2010-11 fiscal year starts.

It's made up of a $1.04 million general fund, a $1.92 million electricity fund and an $800,000 water and sewer fund.

After decades of keeping the town property tax rate at 40.5 cents per $100 of assessed value - or its equivalent under a different assessment method - the council agreed Monday to raise it 8 cents, to 48.5 cents.

However, Washington County is cutting its property tax rate for all municipal residents by 12.5 cents in the coming fiscal year, giving Williamsport residents a net drop of 4.5 cents in their tax rate.

The town is scaling back its contract with the Washington County Sheriff's Department for police coverage. One deputy will be assigned to the town instead of two.

McCleaf said the town will save $70,000, including $25,000 for a police cruiser it would have had to buy.

The town also is spending $7,000 and getting a $13,000 grant to get a new boiler for the community building in Byron Memorial Park, he said.

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