Businesses criticize spending plan

June 07, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

At a public hearing last night on Annapolis' proposed fiscal 1995 budget, no resident complained about the 7-cent increase in the property tax rate; no municipal employee petitioned for a raise.

But business and community leaders blasted the City Council and mayor for failing to give them enough time to review the $38 million spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1, and urged the council to delay voting on the proposal.

"The average citizen has had little time to figure out what is being proposed," said resident Richard Achenbach.

"This is no way to run a $38 million corporation," said Cynthia McBride, vice president of the Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce.

The mayor presented his proposed budget to the council's Finance Committee on May 5, four days later than the date required by city law. The delay was attributed a need to rework the proposal due to an unexpected revenue shortfall.

The Finance Committee considered the proposed budget at several meetings and unveiled its recommendations on Friday.

The council is required to adopt a budget by June 30. A vote on the proposal is set for next Monday.

Ms. McBride said the Chamber of Commerce had expected to receive the proposed budget by last Wednesday, but did not get it until 1 p.m. Friday.

"Four hours is not enough time [to review it]," she said.

Tom Davies, president of the Ward One Residents Association, told the council that his organization had not had time to meet to discuss the budget plan. He also complained that residents had been prohibited from commenting or asking questions about the budget at Finance Committee work sessions.

Mr. Davies said the council should hold hearings on specific programs in the proposed budget, not just the entire proposal.

"This is a whole smorgasbord of changes here, and this is not the proper format for budgeting considerations," Mr. Davies said.

"At least give us 10 days or two weeks to review the budget," asked Dan Masterson, who represented the Community Associations of Annapolis.

Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, chairwoman of the Finance Committee, defended the budget process, saying that for the first time the committee's deliberations had been broadcast on cable television. She said the committee also made its recommendations to the City Council earlier than usual.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins promised to continue the budget hearing at the council's next meeting in order to give the public a chance to comment.

Last night, the council heard from 29 residents and business representatives.

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