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Few speak at hearings on Hagerstown's proposed budget

The property tax rate for Hagerstown residents will again stay flat at $0.788 per $100 of assessed value

May 08, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

Only a handful of citizens turned out Tuesday evening for a trio of public hearings on Hagerstown’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

The first hearing, on the proposed annual action plan for the city’s Community Development Block Grant program, produced the most speakers — three — before the Hagerstown City Council.

An estimated $1.6 million in CDBG funding will be disbursed in fiscal 2012-13, which includes about $661,000 in federal entitlements, a 21-percent reduction from the current year, Community Development Manager Jonathan Kerns said.

A little more than $1 million — mostly in the form of loan repayments and unspent entitlement funds — constitutes the remaining funding for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, Kerns said.

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CDBG funds support various community services and facilities, as well as commercial and residential improvements around the city.

Ron Lytle, executive director and president of Contemporary School for the Arts and Gallery Inc., asked the five-member council to consider allocating money to the organization, which is not scheduled to receive funding next year after getting it for the past three years.

“Because it’s all about your children and your community,” Lytle said.

Sharon Disque and Joe Marschner, both from the Hagerstown Neighborhood Development Partnership, were the only other two speakers during the hearing, thanking the council for earmarking $24,500 for the group’s down-payment assistance program.

Marschner also thanked the city for $50,000 in funding from the proposed general fund budget.

The record for the CBDG’s action plan, which can be found online at the city’s website, would be left open until June 5, Kerns said.

The next two hearings — to discuss a slight increase in the city’s estimated assessable tax base and the proposed budget for fiscal year 2012-13 — only received two public comments, again thankful remarks from Disque and Marschner.

The property tax rate for Hagerstown residents will again stay flat at $0.788 per $100 of assessed value in support of next year’s general fund budget, which calls for expenditures of about $36.65 million, a 2.2-percent increase from the current year.

Estimated assessable property values are expected to increase 0.5 percent, from $2.51 billion to $2.52 billion, and tax revenues will increase by approximately $97,176, city officials said.

General fund revenues are up 2.1 percent, according to city documents.

About $24.9 million in property taxes is expected to make up the bulk of the city’s general fund revenue, while an estimated $17.2 million will be paid out in public-safety expenditures in the proposed budget.

There are no scheduled hikes in electric rates for next year, but rates for water and wastewater for city and noncity residents are expected as part of a five-year plan to pay for improvements at the city’s treatment facilities, City Director of Utilities Michael Spiker said.

The council has scheduled work sessions for the next few weeks to continue addressing departmental budgetary requests as it nears the June 30 deadline to formally adopt next fiscal year’s spending plan.

All city budget documents can also be found online at the city’s website, www.hagerstownmd.org.

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