City Panel Frustrated By Task Of Reviewing Budget

Annapolis Council Committee Makes Few Changes To Hopkins' 1992 Plan

May 30, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

Frustrated by what members call a lack of information, the AnnapolisCity Council's Finance Committee made few changes in Mayor Alfred A.Hopkins' proposed fiscal 1992 budget.

Instead, most of the committee's recommendations will affect the following year's budget. The committee proposed an overhaul of the city's budget process that would change the way future budgets are put together.

"We need to bring Annapolis' budget process into the 19th centuryat least, and what we'd really like is to get it into the 21st century," said Alderman John R. Hammond, R-Ward 1, the committee's chairman.

The recommendations will be finalized and delivered to lawmakers later this week. The full council will conduct a public hearing on the budget at 7:30 p.m. June 3 in City Hall. The council has until late June to approve Hopkins' proposed $36.8 million budget.

The committee began the budget process earlier this year, hoping to evaluateprograms instead of reviewing the budget line-by-line as members have done in previous years. But after six meetings with city departmentdirectors, committee members decided they couldn't review programs under the present system.

The committee -- which also includes Aldermen Ellen O. Moyer, D-Ward 8, and Dean Johnson, I-Ward 2 -- asked the city administration to set long- and short-term goals for the council to review before the budget is developed. Members also recommendedthat the administration present the committee with quarterly reports, so members can monitor the city's progress in meeting the goals.

They found that training and education for city employees was lacking and recommended that training be centralized. They found the city was replacing old equipment unevenly and recommended the city establish a 10-year capital replacement plan.

The panel recommended that all public relations and information be centralized in the Department of Public Information and Tourism. For example, the Department of Transportation sells advertising for its buses, and the Department of Public Works provides public information for its recycling programs. The committee said such operations should be centralized.

Members said maintenance of the city's equipment and vehicles and buildings andgrounds should be centralized. They said data processing should be centralized and equipment improved.

They asked the Fire Department to work with the county fire department to provide paramedics for a new ambulance for Eastport. The Eastport Volunteer Fire Department hasraised about $100,000 for the ambulance, but the city can't afford to staff it.

The City Council must approve the committee's recommendations for the city administration to implement them.

Finance Director William Tyler said the budget process is line-by-line to match the city's computerized accounting process. Tyler said the city couldchange its accounting process to a program-based one, or it could convert the system at budget time.

Hopkins' proposed 1992 spending plan is up 3.4 percent from this year's $35.6 million budget. The tax rate would remain the same under Hopkins' and the finance committee'sproposals: $1.80 per $100 assessed value. Some permit and license fees and other charges would increase under the plan, however.

The plan includes $100,000 for a citywide curbside recycling program, $145,000 for five new police officers and $86,000 for five police communications officers.

The Community Oriented Police Squad, a group of officers who patrol the city's troubled neighborhoods, would increasefrom six to eight officers. The squad will be based at a new substation in the Harbour House public housing development, along with threeother officers funded by the Annapolis Housing Authority. The substation will open next week.

With the exception of the Police Department, most other departments would stay at the same levels or face cutbacks. The transportation department's "Shopper Dropper" trolley would be halted, but the finance committee recommended continuing bus service to West Annapolis with the Naval Academy stadium-downtown shuttle.

The budget contains no cost-of-living increases for city employees, but employees would receive merit and longevity increases.

Officials say Annapolis' financial troubles have been exacerbated by the city's Defense Highway landfill, which will close next year. The landfill has provided $2 million a year in commercial tipping fees to the city.

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