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Public hearing set for Tuesday on Hagerstown's proposed budget

May 07, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday night to allow Hagerstown residents to comment on the city’s proposed budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The budget hearing will take place along with two other public hearings, starting at 7 p.m., in the council chamber at Hagerstown City Hall, 1 E. Franklin St.

Other scheduled hearings are to discuss the Community Development Block Grant program’s proposed annual action plan and the property tax rate, which city officials propose to keep constant despite a 0.5 percent increase in Hagerstown’s estimated assessable tax base.

The tax rate would remain at $0.788 per $100 of assessed property value, but the increase in the tax base would create an additional $97,176 in tax revenue for fiscal year 2012-13, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said.

“It’s not a tax rate increase,” he said.

The estimated assessable real property base will increase from $2.51 billion to $2.52 billion, Zimmerman said.

The city’s $36.6 million proposed general fund budget is chiefly supported by about $24.9 million in property tax revenues, according to proposed figures reported by city officials in late March.

Zimmerman said there have been no major changes to the spending plan since then.

Other funding sources are projected to stay relatively steady, except for funds associated with fines and forfeitures, which jump by 201 percent from this year — up to $730,270 — to account for the estimated money generated by the new automatic speed cameras around the city.

Major expenditures include $17.2 million for public safety — $11.1 million to police and $6 million to fire, a 6.6 percent increase from the current budget.

Projected funding for the city’s Capital Improvement Program increased by 169.4 percent from the current year — about $311,900 to $882,759 — due to the reinstatement of expenditures for vehicle and equipment purchases.

Total operating revenues for Hagerstown’s city-owned utilities — electric, water and wastewater — have all increased in the next fiscal year, but so will the water and wastewater rates for many customers.

Zimmerman said the utility rate hikes are part of a five-year schedule of increases to address needed capital improvement projects to the city’s water and wastewater systems.

For city residents, water and wastewater rates will go up by about 5 percent, while noncity residents can expect a 3 percent increase for wastewater and a 6.5 percent increase for water.

Electric rates should stay the same for city and noncity residents.

The proposed budget can be found online at www.hagerstownmd.org.

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