In a last-minute budget compromise, the Annapolis City Council managed to finance a long-awaited ambulance for Eastport while holding the line on most city spending in the upcoming year.
"I guess it's like coming from behind at the bottom of the
ninth, with the bases loaded and two outs," he said. "It means the resident of Eastport will have to depend less on ambulances coming from the outside."
The council's Finance Committee, in whittling the mayor's proposed $37.5 million budget down to $37.2 million, suggested waiting six months before hiring the paramedics. The three-member committee wanted the mayor to negotiate more financial assistance from the county.
But Turner argued that "to this date, there has been some conversation with the county, and it has not prospered." He also said the county might be less likely to pay more for another ambulance because it recently decided to build another fire station on Forest Drive.
"I don't know how you can put a price tag on someone's health," said DeGraff, who supported both attempts to amend the budget to include the ambulance.
The Eastport Volunteer Fire Company has raised about $115,000 to replace the fire truck used for emergency medical calls with an ambulance. Firefighters said they could buy the ambulance as soon as the city agrees to hire the paramedics needed to staff it.
B6 Alderman Ruth Gray, R-Ward 4, questioned depleting
the contingency fund to pay for the ambulance. But Snowden said his proposal also relies on this year's savings from restructuring the contract to replace the city's aging police communications system. The $50,000 difference will be made up in the next budget year.
The $37.2 million budget approved by the council barely increases spending over last year's $36.8 million budget. It keeps the current property tax rate of $1.80 per $100 of assessed value.
But higher assessments will raise the average tax tab 9.1 percent in the budget year beginning July 1.
The city also kept the tax rate steady last year by budgeting few new positions and denying employees cost-of-living pay raises. City employees will receive only merit increases for the second year in a row.
The council decided Monday night to add $12,000 to the budget to help pay for the annual fireworks show on the Fourth of July.
The council also kept a new economic development position to lure businesses to Maryland's capital. Much of the $56,000-a-year post will be financed through the city's increased share of a higher state tourism tax.