Mayor Seeks More Police, Holds Line On Property Tax

May 02, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins said yesterday that he wants to take a bite out of crime, not his constituents' wallets.

Hopkins presented the City Council with a bare-bones $36.8 million operating budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, that would not increase the city's property tax rate but would raise fees and put a freeze on city employees' cost-of-living raises.

The spending plan -- a 3.4 percent increase over last year's budget -- includes 11 new police officers and emergency dispatchers, as well as 10 patrol cars.

It also expands last year's pilot curbside-recycling program from 800 homes in the Heritage and Admiral Heights neighborhoods to the entire city. City trash trucks would collect recycled glass and cans from the curb twice a month.

"There were two key things as far as I'm concerned," Hopkins said in an interview yesterday. "We're going to do curbside recycling to the entire city, which is vital. Priority attention needs to go to the environment.

"And we're adding five more sworn officers to the Police Department because priority treatment needs to go to reducing the crime rate, especially where it involves drugs."

If the budget is approved by the council, the city's property tax rate would remain constant at $1.80 per $100 assessed value. The owner of a $100,000 home wouldpay $1,800 in city property taxes. The mayor and council raised the tax rate 9 cents last year.

To balance the budget, Hopkins wants to raise nearly $300,000 in additional fees for services, including rental unit inspections and water and sewer hookups.

Hopkins would reorganize the government to eliminate a handful of positions, including the drug policy coordinator and the secretary in the mayor's office.

In addition to denying city employees cost-of-living increases, the mayor proposes to double the amount they must pay toward their medical insurance benefits.

Members of the Finance Committee, which will begin reviewing the budget proposal May 14, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Hopkins said he offered such a lean budget to compensate for the revenue the city will lose when its landfill closes during the next year. He also said he expects the economic downturn to continue.

Still, Hopkins said he wanted toaddress the city's drug problem and the environment.

"The environment and public safety are very important," he said. "The Fire Department also could have used more than it's receiving. It has a lot of equipment that needs to be replaced. It's just as important as law enforcement, but we weren't able to do as much as they (firefighters) deserve.

"While the Police Department was given a greater increase than any other department, itwas done to really concentrate on reducing crime. When I think of crime, I think a good portion is drug-related. Either someone is hoppedup on drugs, or they are selling drugs or they are stealing to support a habit. To really reduce crime, we're going to have to concentrate on getting rid of drugs."

The five additional police officers would be assigned to narcotics, K-9 and traffic patrol, Hopkins said. That would free up additional officers for the anti-drug program in the city's low-income housing projects.

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