Hampstead budget keeps property tax rate the same Draft includes money for new police officer, computer system upgrade

April 10, 1997|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

The first draft of Hampstead's fiscal 1998 budget maintains the property tax rate and includes money to upgrade its computer system, hire a new police officer and dispatcher, and improve emergency services.

The budget, presented to the Town Council on Tuesday by Mayor Christopher M. Nevin, projects expenses at $1,239,687 -- about $29,000 higher than the current fiscal year -- and keeps the municipal tax rate at 45 cents per $100 of assessed value.

One of the most significant changes in the budget is a $25,000 increase in the town's contribution to Hampstead Volunteer Fire Department, from $10,000 to $35,000.

Fire officials had requested a $40,000 increase, saying that private donations to the department had not kept pace with the town's growing population and calls for emergency services.

"Where the controversy lies is how many calls are outside of the town limits," said Town Manager Neil Ridgely, who drafted the 1998 spending plan.

The extra money would be used to pay for two full-time emergency services workers to cover daytime hours, one trained in advanced life support and one trained in basic life support, said Kevin Hann, a vice president with Hampstead Volunteer Fire Department.

It has become more difficult to attract volunteers trained in advanced life support because of the additional training required for the position.

Hann said the department has two volunteers trained in advanced life support.

"Although Hampstead's growth has probably doubled in the past six to eight years, our donations are the same as 10 years ago," Hann told the Town Council at a public hearing on the department's request Tuesday.

"If we got $50 from every house in Hampstead, we wouldn't be here tonight," he said.

Hampstead's 1998 budget tries to address the concerns of police Chief Ken Meekins, who has told the council he needs more space and personnel to provide adequate police protection.

The budget allocates $51,300 for a sixth police officer and a dispatcher/clerk.

The figure includes salaries and benefits.

"It will enable us to go to 24-hour service," Ridgely said.

The department provides coverage 20 hours a day. The town office staff handles calls for police service from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but it isn't an ideal arrangement, town officials said.

Ridgely said Hampstead's capital budget, which hasn't been completed, will include money to relocate the Police Department, which is housed in a building attached to Town Hall on South Carroll Street.

Meekins has said that more space would give the department a more visible presence and make it possible to hire officers.

Hampstead's draft budget also includes $60,000 for legal fees. Town officials had projected $50,000 for legal expenses for fiscal 1997, but had exhausted the fund by January.

Much of the money went toward development-related issues, zoning appeals cases and drafting ordinances.

Ridgely estimated the town needed an additional $40,000 to handle Hampstead's remaining legal expenses until June 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

The town's budget for next year includes a $10,000 allocation for new computer equipment and $7,300 for a voice mail system. Town officials expect to cover the additional spending with projected increases in tax and other revenue.

The Town Council has scheduled a budget work session at 7 p.m. April 24 at North Carroll branch library, and a public hearing on the spending plan at 7 p.m. May 14 at Hampstead Volunteer Fire Department before the council meeting.

Pub Date: 4/10/97

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