Citizens group's effort could force Crofton to revamp 1995-1996 budget

November 30, 1994|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Sun Staff Writer

Crofton officials may be forced to rethink their proposed 1995-1996 budget if a citizens group succeeds in requiring community approval of any budget increase.

Resident William J. Flynn presented a 197-signature petition to Crofton Civic Association President Edwin F. Dosek Monday, requesting a special meeting so that residents can vote on a bylaw change. The amendment would require membership approval of any budget exceeding the previous year's.

Currently, the special tax district's board of directors have to get town meeting approval of any spending plan that adds 5 percent or more to the current budget. Seventy-five residents must attend a town meeting for a quorum, and budget approval requires a two-thirds majority.

If Crofton had to limit next year's spending to this year's budget of $579,445, a sixth police officer could not be hired and employees would not get a cost-of-living increase, Town Manager Barbara Swann said. Instead, services would have to be reduced to allow for inflation.

Mr. Flynn, who has lived in Crofton for 28 years, said residents need a greater say in how the special tax district collects and spends money. He said the board has habitually raised the budget by slightly less than 5 percent a year, avoiding membership votes.

"No one ever, ever thought the budget would go up to $600,000," he said.

On Oct. 31, Ms. Swann proposed two alternative budgets for the fiscal year that will begin July 1. One plan continues the controversial community counselor program and calls for $608,348 in spending. The other budget eliminates the program and has a bottom line of $590,195.

Mr. Flynn said it took him and others 12 days to collect the 197 signatures on the petition. Of the 41 people he personally spoke with, he said, one refused to sign the petition.

"Their general reaction is just, 'Things are out of control in Crofton,' " he said.

Mr. Dosek said Mr. Flynn may have worded his petition incorrectly. He said board members will discuss the petition at their Monday meeting.

The civic association board recognized at this week's meeting that the community counselor program is unlikely to survive a citizen petition drive that will determine its fate.

County Executive Robert R. Neall approved Crofton's budget for this year on the condition that the tax district amend its charter by Jan. 31, 1995, to grant it the authority to spend tax money on a counselor. A charter amendment requires the approval of 51 percent of homeowners.

Ms. Swann said yesterday that 62 percent of those who had returned their petition forms supported the counselor program, but 364 more signatures in support of the program are required to reach 51 percent.

Also Monday, to comply with personnel policy, the board voted to give the counselor, Linda Smith, 30 days' notice effective Dec. 30.

The board also voted Monday to ask County Executive-elect John G. Gary for an extension of the deadline for gathering petition signatures, from Jan. 31 until June 30. If the extension is approved and the signatures are gathered, Ms. Smith will be eligible for immediate reinstatement, Ms. Swann said.

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