Board members who govern Crofton's special tax district breezed through the first half of next year's budget proposal Thursday night, approving spending in the police and human services department.
Whilethey questioned such items as the amount of money budgeted for police overtime, the two sections of the budget that showed little or no increase over last year's spending easily won approval.
But tomorrow, the 13-member board will start tackling some harderissues in the maintenance and administrative areas, which account for nearly all of the $60,000 increase in spending.
Billed by Town Manager Jordan Harding as a "no-frills" package, the proposal calls for a 12 percent spending increase but gives employees no cost-of-living raises.
If approved, it would retain the tax rate at 29 cents per $100 of assessed property value, but would be well over the 5 percent tax cap, necessitating general membership approval.
"Don't be intimidated by a 5 percent cap," said board member Ken Folstein, echoing sentiments of other members who said it would be hard to chop too much out of the proposed $567,000 budget.
In order to reduce the budget, some members suggested removing the $7,500 allocated for gypsymoth spraying and a portion of the $11,000 proposed for legal fees -- most of which are used for covenant enforcement -- and let the general membership vote on those two items separately.
That way, they said, Crofton residents would be able to decide how much over the 5 percent cap they are willing to go.
"They would know what the moneyis going for," board member Al Aldo said.
Another board member, Kathy Puhak, suggested reducing the tax rate one penny, which would reduce the budget increase by $17,400, leaving a proposed increase of only 10 percent.
"The community might be more ready to accept a 10 percent increase if their tax rate was being reduced," she said.
But comptroller Barbara Swann warned against such a move.
"It is better to stay even than go down one penny this year and then up two pennies next year," she said.
"That would be political suicide."
On the administrative side of the budget, which asks for $191,900 -- a 19 percent increase over this year's $155,000 outlay -- board members questioned everything from clerical
support to the town manager's salary.
It's not that they thought Harding was earning too much-- they questioned why he did not offer himself a raise. He earns $36,750.
"To me it would be unethical and immoral to not propose raises for your employees and take one yourself," Harding said.
Boardmembers would not let the issue rest, however, promising to come back to it at a later date.
The board also discussed Harding's request that the part-time administrative assistant, who earns $13,500, be promoted to full time with a salary of $19,100. Harding said the staff is overburdened.
Aside from the administrative assistant and Harding, the town employs a full-time comptroller and recently has addeda part-time covenant enforcement officer.
Harding said he still needs extra money for more part-time help to cover vacations, sick leave and emergencies.
"I think we've asked the staff to do too much," Aldo said.
"It makes the town manager very ineffective.
"Whenthe town manager sits around answering telephones because there is not a secretary, then we are paying him to be a receptionist."
Budget deliberations will continue Monday night at town hall.