Crofton's 1995 budget may blend 2 proposals Board debates tax rise, police

November 03, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Crofton leaders trying to pick between two proposed budgets for fiscal 1995 may end up taking a little from both while deciding whether taxes should be raised and the five-member police force expanded.

After a 90-minute opening session Monday night, the 13-member board could only decide that next year's budget should not exceed this year's by more than 5 percent. An increase greater than 5 percent must be approved by voters.

But whether the 28-cent tax rate should go up is still a point of contention. The board of directors won't discuss the plan for the Police Department until Monday evening.

The board's decision Monday virtually eliminated the first proposal by Town Manager Barbara Swann, which she called her "wish list."

It would increase this year's $558,000 budget by $72,000, nearly a 13 percent jump. That would not only require voter approval, but it also would increase the tax rate from 28 cents to 31 cents per $100 of assessed property rates. The average increase for each property owner would be $25 a year.

But under that wish list, the special tax district would have enough money to hire two additional police officers, one full time and one part time.

The second proposal, a $586,000 budget, would increase the tax rate from 28 to 29 cents. The average increase to each property owner would be $8 a year. Under this plan, Crofton would have enough money to fund one part-time police officer.

Under both plans, the community's nine full-time employees would get a 2 percent cost-of-living raise.

Board member Ed Ganning argued that the budget should fall under the 5 percent cap, and taxes should not go up. "I can't in good conscience propose a budget that is going to raise taxes," he said.

But member Jim Collett said a plan that does not raise taxes would be a "standstill budget" that actually cuts services because of a lack of funds. "It's not like we're increasing taxes to add a bunch of new stuff," he said.

On Monday, board members tentatively passed the maintenance and operations section of the budget, which represents $72,000 in spending. Next week, they take up the Police Department's spending plan, which members acknowledge is the most flexible part of the overall proposal.

In her proposal, Ms. Swann argues that the department has not nTC increased in the 25-year history of the community, while the number of residents has gone from 6,000 in 1970 to more than 9,000 today.

"This growth has a tremendous effect on our community in person and property crimes, drugs and their related incidents and traffic," Ms. Swann wrote. "We do not want to move backward in our crime-fighting efforts when we are already ahead of where other communities all over the country want to be."

Expanding the department, which supplements county police protection, would increase the Police Department's budget from $248,000 to $305,000, an 18 percent increase.

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