Council approves property tax cut $40.3 million budget, which also raises pay, passes unanimously

June 04, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

With little debate and in a surprising show of unity last night, the Annapolis city council unanimously passed a $40.3 million operating budget that included a 4-cent reduction in the city property tax rate and a raise for city employees.

Slicing $400,000 from Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins' proposed budget, the council rewarded city homeowners by passing 17 amendments that lowered the property tax rate by 4 cents, to $1.69 per $100 of assessed value -- its lowest level in five years.

The night proved to be a 180-degree turn for the mayor, who had objected to alterations in the budget he proposed in April.

With a move by the County Council on Friday to raise the amount Annapolis property owners pay the county for services the city does not provide, Hopkins acquiesced to cuts and said he recognized the need for tax relief.

"I am incredibly pleased with the outcome," said Hopkins, who also is one of the nine council members and supported all 17 budget amendments. "There were no fights. No deals were made. We all worked together to make this tax cut possible."

"I initially proposed a budget that had no tax increase and no tax decrease," Hopkins said. "But, by virtue of the possibility of a tax increase from the county, we had to offset that. With these cuts, no one is trying to hurt anyone; we're just saying we have to tighten our belts."

About $98,000 had to be shaved from the budget for each penny that the council wanted to cut from the property tax rate.

The council finance committee -- which had proposed a 3-cent cut -- was pleasantly surprised last night at passage of a last-minute amendment by Alderman Shepard Tullier, a Ward 4 Democrat, that raised the city trash-collection fee by $42 instead of the committee's proposed $30 and allowed $100,000 more to be cut from the budget.

Other cuts made final included:

$8,000 from the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County.

$12,500 from the Historic District Commission.

$30,000 from the Department of Transportation, which eliminated a vacant transit supervisor's position.

$200,000 from the public works budget, including a $50,000 cut from construction and street resurfacing projects and $50,000 from the residential trash collection service.

The budget provides city employees with a 3.8 percent salary increase, which will take effect July 1 at a cost of $740,000 in the next fiscal year.

The council also approved amendments providing $7,000 to research the possibility of bringing a John F. Kennedy museum to Annapolis, $10,000 to help provide day care for single parents and $12,000 to the Annapolis Youth Services Bureau for drug-prevention programs.

Alderman Carl O. Snowden said approval of the budget marked a victory for the finance committee and for city taxpayers.

The city government is battling the county tax increase in Circuit Court, where a hearing is scheduled for Friday. If the city succeeds in overturning that increase, Snowden said, "taxpayers will enjoy a very good tax decrease."

Pub Date: 6/04/96

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