The Crofton Civic Association meets tomorrow night to discuss next year's budget proposal, which would increase spending nearly 12 percent but give employees of the special tax district no cost-of-living raises.
The "no-frills" package would retain the tax rate at 29 cents per $100 of assessed property value, slightly decrease spending in the police department but increase the outlay for town hall.
Town Manager Jordana Harding said the budget reflects tough economic times on the state and county levels. Economic woes have reduced Crofton's grant money, brought cutbacks in service and increased feesfor some programs, such as gypsy-moth spraying, Harding said.
"Asa manager, I sincerely wish I would be able to give our employees cost-of-living increases," Harding said. "But with the economy, cost containment is very important. I know that taxpayers are demanding it."
If the association's 13-member governing board approves the $567,480 budget, it would then go before the general membership, which must approve proposed budgets that increase spending by more than 5 percent.
Harding said he hopes to avoid the controversy that erupted last year, when the civic association voted to reduce cost-of-living increases from 5 percent to 3 percent for all employees and eliminate all police bonuses.
One month later, the board restored the 5 percent cost-of-living increases. "I want to try and avoid a long, drawn-out confrontation with the board," Harding said.
Ed Dosek, president of the Crofton Civic Association, said he expects no complaints from Crofton workers because their salaries won't be cut, while their counterparts in the county government are taking a 3 percent cut.
The only salary increases employees would see under the proposal is a small bump up in salary due to a revamping of the pay scales and normal grade increases based on merit.
The blueprint for the budget year beginning June 1 would raise spending about $60,000 over the current $507,101 budget. The biggest increase would go to town hall, whichwould get a 19 percent increase, from $155,000 to nearly $191,000.
The only decrease in the budget would come in the police department, which makes up nearly half of Crofton's overall spending. Harding'splan would cut the department's budget from $242,000 this year to $239,000.
To reduce police spending, Harding eliminated the midnightshift for the five-officer force. The move was made possible by an agreement reached last month that increases county police patrols in the special tax district.
The county agreement also eliminates the need for Crofton to hire an additional officer, as recommended by a county police department audit completed earlier this year, Harding said.
Monday night, Crofton voters rejected a proposal that would have established a "budget base" computed by the amount of new construction. A 5 percent annual tax cap would have been applied to that base, instead of to the previous year's budget, as is done now.
Had the proposed changes been approved, Harding's budget would have been under the 5 percent cap, making general membership approval unnecessary.
But Harding said he did not draw up his budget proposal with Monday's vote in mind.