Towns Wrestling With Budgets To Hold Down Taxes

Hampstead Property Rate Remains At 58 Cents

April 24, 1991|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

HAMPSTEAD — The town's draft budget for fiscal 1992 calls for no change in the 58-cent tax rate, although increased property values mean many homeowners' tax bill will rise, along with the cost of water.

The first draft of the town budget is based on an expected $579,039 in income and expenses, a 7.3 percent increase over the $539,685 in the current budget year ending June 30.

The council will see a revised draft at its May 20 meeting and a public hearing June 17. Town taxes on the average $134,000 home wouldremain at $311 annually, plus $1,260 in county taxes.

Town Manager John A. Riley said he did not include in the expected revenue $16,300 in income tax and highway-user tax revenue the state told him he could expect. He said he doubted the accuracy of the state estimates and reduced them by 10 percent to avoid a deficit if the money doesn'tcome into the town.

Riley said water rates, which are kept separate from the general fund budget, must increase to generate another $15,000 to $18,000 to pay for increased operating costs.

Residents now pay $10 a quarter for hook-ups and up to 5,000 gallons of water, plus $1.35 for every additional 1,000 gallons.

Riley is proposing two options: charging $12 for hook-ups and up to 4,000 gallons a quarter, or raising the charge to $1.65 for every

1,000 gallons above 5,000.

Riley said 91 percent of the town's households use more than5,000 gallons a quarter.

New budget items include:

* Hiring a part-time zoning administrator at $19,412, including benefits.

* A4 percent raise across the board for all town employees, at a cost of $9,249.

* A computerized mapping system for the town at $2,500. The software can store tax, zoning, geological and other information that can be accessed as needed.

* A replacement police cruiser at $15,500.

* A staff car for Riley at $8,000, depending on bids, to replace the 1983 car with a smaller, more fuel-efficient car.

Councilmen who want to hire a fourth police officer by July 1992

agreed that any money they can save should go toward a goal of starting the officer sooner.

Councilman Lewis O. Keyser Jr. first brought therequest for a fourth officer.

Councilman C. Clinton Becker estimated the town needs at least $2,000 to outfit another officer with a uniform, bullet-proof vest and other items. Annual salary and benefitswould cost $24,000.

He said that while the rule of thumb for police staffing in a town is one officer for every 3,000 residents, growth eventually will require increased coverage. Hampstead has 2,763 residents.

Riley said he thought the police department, now with three officers, could be managed more efficiently. He declined to elaborate.

Police Chief Kenneth F. Russell said he and his two officers have seen an increase in calls from the new shopping center at RobertsField in the south end of town.

"I thought it was my responsibility to ask for a fourth man," Russell said. "The shopping center is anextra burden.

"We've had a couple of broken windows, a $300 dog stolen from a car, and it's not even Christmas yet. All the stores aren't open yet."

Even with the fourth officer, he said, the town could not have an officer on duty 24 hours every day.

The budget alsocalls for $10,000 for repairs to the town's community pool and $5,000 for the Carroll County YMCA to run the program this summer.

Under the two-year agreement, the YMCA will run the program next summer for a nominal $1 fee from the town.

During both years, the YMCA would take in any fees generated by memberships.

Riley said the $15,000 set aside for the pool is little more than has been spent in previous years to run the program.

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