Hampstead budget in for smooth sailing?

April 25, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Hampstead's proposed budget for 1993-1994 appears destined for an easy trip through the Town Council.

After Town Manager John A. Riley's explanation of the budget at a council work session Monday, when Mayor Clint Becker asked for questions, none of the council members had any.

"There wasn't anything unexpected in it," Councilwoman Jacqueline Hyatt said Friday. "It just was really easy."

"It was a kind of a straightforward budget," Mr. Riley said Thursday. "It was a kind of conservative budget based on what the needs were."

The council will not finalize the budget until after a public hearing at 7 p.m. May 17.

General fund incomes and expenditures total $722,906 in the proposed budget.

The water fund budget amounts to $251,158, an increase of less than 1 percent.

One reason no one on the council is complaining about the budget proposal is that it includes reducing the town property tax rate by 3 cents. Even so, other sources of revenue have grown, so there will be a 7 percent increase in general fund revenue.

Last year, Hampstead's property tax rate was 53 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The proposed 50-cent rate for fiscal 1993-1994 is the town's constant-yield rate -- the rate that would produce the same number of dollars from property taxes as the town collected last year.

A constant-yield rate means "less paperwork for us," Mr. Riley said, because if a town stays at or below the constant-yield rate it does not have to advertise the budget and the public hearing.

Under the proposed 50-cent rate, the owner of a house with a market value of $130,000 -- assessed at 40 percent of market value -- would pay $260 in town property tax, or $15.60 less than last year.

The draft budget includes money for a fourth police officer for Hampstead.

Mr. Riley said salary and related personnel expenses for the officer amount to slightly more than $26,000. About $3,500 was also put in the capital budget for police uniforms and equipment, such as a bulletproof vest, he said.

One day after the draft budget was introduced, it was already changing.

That's because the draft spending plan assumed the county would increase its landfill tipping fee to $53 a ton. The tipping fee is the amount the county charges for solid waste to be dumped at the landfill.

But Tuesday, the day after the Hampstead budget was introduced, the county commissioners voted to hold the tipping fee at the current rate of $40 a ton.

The commissioners' action freed about $17,500 in the Hampstead budget. Mr. Riley said the money probably would be channeled into the town's roads budget.

Hampstead's proposed lower rate would produce the same revenue as last year because the town's tax base grew from $55 million last year to more than $66.6 million this year.

This year, Mr. Riley said, in addition to new housing and rising assessments, "The golf course is in there."

The golf course is also largely responsible for a considerable jump in the town's admissions tax income, from $3,775 to $23,000.

The $8,000 allotted for legal counsel is up from last year's $4,500. Mr. Riley said the town had "spent quite a bit" for attorneys' fees this year. That is expected to continue as appeals cases, such as the Oakmont Green Retail Center, percolate through the courts.

The town water fund, which is separate from the general fund, is expected to show more than $40,000 in excess revenue, Mr. Riley said.

But, he said, the town will have to begin testing its water for lead and nitrate contamination this year.

He said the extra water revenue would be held in reserve in case the town needs to upgrade its water treatment system.

"The [Environmental Protection Agency] may have to tell us we have to do more water treatment. It's up for grabs. We really don't know," Mr. Riley said at Monday's work session.

"We don't think there's any problem," he said Thursday. But, if there is, "I think that will cover it."

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