Annapolis council approves budget and a tax cut ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale

June 22, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Following the lead of neighboring jurisdictions, the Annapolis City Council approved a $38.3 million budget last night that gives homeowners a 9-cent property tax break and city employees a 2 percent pay raise.

The council's action infuriated a crowd of firefighters, police officers and municipal workers who had packed City Hall to protest that the raise was not enough. Disgruntled employees streamed from the council chambers late last night vowing to reject their contracts.

Many of the city's 150 workers were relying on a new study that recommended a 5 percent raise on their next two anniversaries. However, council members sharply criticized the report, leading the mayor to scrap it and instead suggest lowering the property tax rate by 8 cents.

Alderman John Hammond, a Ward 1 Republican, proposed last night reducing the tax rate by another penny -- from $1.80 per $100 of assessed value to $1.71. The council approved his plan, although Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, a Ward 8 Democrat, warned that the city could be forced to raise taxes as early as next year because property assessments will stop rising.

Even with the 9-cent break, most homeowners in Annapolis will face a 7.1 percent higher tax bill because of increased assessments. Last year, the city kept the tax rate steady, but higher assessments pushed up the average payments by 9 percent.

The spending plan approved last night would expand curbside recycling, which is limited to bottles, cans and some yard waste, to include newspapers and plastics. It also provides for a new equal employment/minority business officer.

Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Democrat from Ward 5, suggested budgeting $40,000 for the Fire Department to improve its minority hiring practices. He argued that the department has still not met the goals negotiated in an out-of-court agreement in 1986 with the Black Firefighters Association.

Mr. Snowden's request was shot down, as was an attempt by Alderman Sam Gilmer, a Ward 3 Democrat, to try to come up with $500,000 to continue the same health benefits for city employees.

City workers who have gone without a cost-of-living increase for the last two years say they will lose money this year because they will have to pay 3 percent more for health benefits.

"The fact is they're not negotiating -- they're dictating," argued John Morgan, president of the union representing about 90 city firefighters.

Although Mr. Gilmer's proposal drew applause, his colleagues on the council pointed out that they had already approved a motion to lower the tax rate further and that health benefits were negotiable.

Alderman Theresa DeGraff, a Ward 7 Republican, pointed out that rising insurance rates are a nationwide trend and employees everywhere "have had to bear the brunt of the cost."

Anne Arundel County lowered its property tax rate by 8 cents this year and gave its employees a 3 percent pay raise. The Baltimore City Council gave tentative approval to a nickel tax cut, but Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke vetoed the budget plan last night, saying it did not provide enough money to strengthen the police force.

Annapolis police officers warn that the city's small force will continue to shrink without better pay and benefits.

The police union is fighting the city's plan to reduce the benefits of those injured in the line of duty from two-thirds of their salary to 20 percent for the first 10 years and 2 percent for each additional year they've served.

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