Self-Sufficiency in Annapolis

May 09, 1991

Virtually every jurisdiction in the greater Baltimore area is struggling to make ends meet. The city of Annapolis is no exception. The $36.7 million city operating budget Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins recently released includes no cost-of-living raises for Annapolis employees, trims in public transportation and higher licensing and permit fees. "I want everyone. . . to look at the cost of running the city with the same seriousness and caution that you do with meeting the expenses of your own home," said Mr. Hopkins.

Annapolis' situation is somewhat unusual. As a city within the borders of Anne Arundel County dependent on relatively stable property taxes, it has been largely insulated from the steep drops in real estate sales that have devastated larger jurisdictions. It expects to close 1991 in the black without resorting to layoffs or higher property taxes.

In a much-needed nod to the city's increasingly urban character, the mayor has provided for 11 police positions and new equipment. "We must accept the notion that there are unmet needs which, for one reason or another, have not been properly or sufficiently addressed in the past," he said. Among these are the delivery of social services in a city in which 5,000 of 33,000 residents live in public housing. The post of drug policy coordinator is being merged with the office of Civic and Neighborhood Projects to form the Mayor's Office of Community and Substance Abuse.

Mayor Hopkins has sensibly predicated his 1992 spending plan on a continued recession and the possible closing of the city's landfill -- which kicks in some $2 million a year in revenue. This is a major and necessary step away from the risky cross-subsidization by which landfill fees and parking fines have underwritten operating losses in sewer and transportation services.

These are sensible steps in light of a recession whose departure is neither scheduled nor guaranteed. Though Annapolis is largely self-sufficient, its fortunes remain inextricably linked to those of the county, and as such, subject to its financial travails. A case in point is bus service. The county has nixed the city's request for $180,000 for bus service that Annapolis provides beyond its boundaries.

Mayor Hopkins' new budget, a scant 3.4 percent increase over fiscal 1991 spending, is a prudent response to economic hard times. It wisely attempts to steer Annapolis toward a future in which the city will be less and less able to count on the Arundel Center for financial support.

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