Hopkins' budget plan to be presented today

May 04, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

The mayor of Annapolis is unveiling his proposed operating budget today, a few days later than usual. But when it is presented, some may wish it had been postponed even longer, because it is likely that the property tax rate will rise.

City officials say property assessments and revenues have dropped sharply, and state fiscal experts have said the city must raise the tax rate by at least 4 cents just to maintain current services.

Annapolis homeowners pay city property taxes at a rate of $1.71 per $100 of assessed value.

"I think it's going to be very tight," said Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, a Ward 8 Democrat and head of the City Council's finance committee. "There will be a lot of slashing and a lot of things that don't happen that people are used to having happen."

City finance officers will present the proposed budget to the finance committee at 7 tonight at City Hall.

Ms. Moyer said several factors are to blame for the loss of revenues.

Property assessments are down $40 million this year, translating to a $1 million loss in property taxes, she said.

In addition, the county is cutting its contribution to help run the city's bus system and has halved the tax it charges on slip rentals at marinas. The city gets a share of that money.

The city also will continue to miss the revenue generated by the city landfill, which was closed two years ago.

City Manager Michael Mallinoff said officials discovered about a month ago that revenues would be below expectations. "We basically had to write a second budget," he said.

The scramble to draft a new budget to reflect the revised revenue projections caused the budget to be delayed several days. The city code requires the mayor to present his operating budget to the council's finance committee on or before May 1, but there is no penalty for not doing so.

Finance committee members said they were not worried about the delay. With the current schedule of hearings, the council still will be ahead of its usual schedule for approving the budget, Ms. Moyer said.

The budget must be adopted by July 1.

Last year, the council adopted a $38.3 million budget that allowed the city to lower the tax rate from $1.80 to $1.71.

This year, officials seem to be prepared for a property tax increase, but Mr. Mallinoff said the city will look for revenues elsewhere, including permits and licensing fees.

He said the city wants to keep the property tax rate increase in line with the county cap on property taxes, which limits the annual growth in total property tax revenues to 4.5 percent or the local rate of inflation.

"They're telling us it's real hard not to have a minimal increase" in the property tax rate, said Alderman Shep Tullier, a Ward 4 Democrat and a finance committee member.

Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat who also is a finance committee member, said he will advocate a pay raise for rTC city workers and look for cuts elsewhere.

"Tough choices are going to have to be made," he said.

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