Annapolis addresses a shortfall

May 05, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins introduced yesterday a proposed budget for fiscal 1995 that calls for less spending than the current budget but contains higher property taxes, parking fines and permits and license fees.

The $37.8 million proposal -- $134,200 less than the fiscal 1994 budget -- contains a 7-cent increase in the tax rate of $1.71 per $100 of assessed value, which would raise the average property tax bill in the city by $17.

City Administrator Michael Mallinoff delivered the proposal to the City Council Finance Committee last night. The committee is to hold several hearings before sending the spending plan to the full council, which must adopt a budget by June 30.

The proposed budget would give employees a 3 percent cost-of-living increase, but fewer supplies with which to do their jobs and less money for training and education. The mayor would cut 15 jobs from the city's work force of 491 and institute a hiring freeze for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Under the spending plan, metered parking fees would double, from 50 cents an hour to $1 an hour, and the hours of parking meter operations would be extended to 10 a.m. until 8:30 p.m, seven days a week.

Currently, meters are in effect from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon until 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Mr. Hopkins proposed increases in 17 categories of fees and permits, including higher parking fines, liquor licenses, vTC swimming pool fees and professional licenses. Water and sewer fees would not increase, although the connection fees would.

The city would implement a fee for docking and storing boats that would raise $125,000, under the spending plan.

The cost of garbage collection would not increase, but pickups would be reduced from twice a week to once a week, according to the proposed budget. The city's curbside recycling program would continue once-a-week collections.

Mr. Mallinoff called the proposed budget "skimpy" and said it reflected an attempt to shift the cost of government to users rather than general taxpayers. "We're reinventing government and making government pay for itself more equitably," he said.

The three members of the Finance Committee had few questions after Mr. Mallinoff's presentation.

Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, a Ward 8 Democrat and head of the committee, said she was surprised that the proposed increase in the property tax rate would mean the owner of a $150,000 home would pay only $17 more a year.

Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat and member of the finance committee, asked whether it would be possible to cut the proposed budget even more and asked the impact of a 5 percent reduction in spending.

Mr. Mallinoff said any additional cuts would have to come from salaries, contingency funds or the short list of capital projects.

Earlier, Mr. Snowden had said the proposed budget is more realistic than in past years, although he said the council no doubt would make adustments.

"We're prepared to scrutinize this budget closely," he said.

But Mr. Snowden said the bottom-line numbers probably won't change much.

Taxes are going up and the budget is going down because the city is grappling with a revenue shortfall, Mr. Mallinoff explained.

Property assessments fell from $950.5 million in fiscal year 1994 to $930.6 million for the 1995 fiscal year, translating to the loss of $380,000 in property tax revenue, according to the budget document.

Anne Arundel County's decision to reduce boat slip fees is expected to cost the city $265,000. And the county does not appear willing to continue its $70,000 transportation subsidy to the city, according to the

budget document.

The city also has steadily lost revenues from parking meters and fines over the years, according to the budget document.

In his proposed budget, Mr. Hopkins did not request any new programs and sought only a few capital purchases. These include six new patrol cars for the Police Department, at a cost of $96,000; a utility truck for water distribution costing $26,500; and office equipment, furniture and maintenance equipment for a new transportation facility at a cost of $200,000.

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