'Lean' budget keeps tax rate same $40 million proposal won't reduce services

April 11, 1997|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Annapolis officials are to unveil today an approximately $40 million operating budget for the next fiscal year that contains no tax increase.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins also is expected to reveal a $60 million construction budget for the next six years that will pay for landscaping of a new decorative entry into the city at West Street and Taylor Avenue.

"The mayor is putting forward a very good, lean budget that maintains the status quo with regards to the tax rate and doesn't reduce services," said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, chairman of the City Council's Finance Committee and a 5th Ward Democrat.

Snowden added that the finance committee will try to give city residents even better news by whittling perhaps a few cents off the tax rate during budget meetings over the next month.

Although the city property tax rate stays at $1.69 per $100 of assessed value, some homeowners may see a slight increase in their property tax bills because assessments increased by less than 1 percent. The city tax bill on a $150,000 home would be about $2,535.

The loudest disputes previously have centered on the tax credit city residents receive from Anne Arundel County for services such as police and fire protection that are provided to them by the city.

Last year, County Executive John G. Gary set off howls when he cut the tax credit by 8 cents. But this year, the quarreling is expected to be minimal because Gary has said he has no plans to change the tax credit.

"I think the budget process went a lot better this year than last year, because it was handled by professionals, not elected officials," said county financial officer John Hammond.

Although the mayor's proposed budget for July 1 through June 30, 1998, won't be released to the public until today, some of its general features were sketched by city officials yesterday.

Because the federal and state governments are cutting back on transportation funding by about $165,000, city departments will have to tighten their belts and operate more efficiently, city officials said.

There will be no layoffs, but employees won't receive a cost-of-living pay increase this year, said city finance director Kathleen Sulick.

"We are going to have to squeeze here and there to submit a budget without a tax increase," said city administrator John Prehn. "But I don't think we are going to have to cut any services."

The capital budget includes about $4.5 million for the proposed creation this year of a new gateway to the city: a landscaped traffic circle at West Street and Taylor Avenue.

City officials hope this will serve as the centerpiece of a major project to renovate West Street over the next several years.

Also included in the capital budget is $2 million over two years for the renovation of the public Hillman Parking garage on Duke of Gloucester Street; $3.3 million over two years for routine maintenance of the joint city and county waste-water treatment plant; and $1 million over two years for the repair of the city's aging sewer and water systems.

Public hearings on the city's budgets will be held on April 21, 22, 24 and 28. A vote by the city council is scheduled for May 19.

Pub Date: 4/11/97

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