Gary offers 2-cent tax cut Thanks to economy, spending can increase at same time, he says

May 02, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

The happy coincidence of an economic boon this election year has enabled Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary to propose a 2-cent property tax cut and $59 million in new spending, including increased school and police funding and $12 million more for construction projects.

But Gary said yesterday that his plan is not an election-year gift to taxpayers. Now is simply the time that income tax revenues have increased.

His rival for the county executive seat, Councilwoman Diane Evans, however, cautioned against over-ambition: "We don't want to overextend ourselves," the Arnold Democrat said after Gary's budget address. "Times are good now, but times that are this good are not guaranteed."

Evans said she would scrutinize new hires outside of education and public safety.

But Linthicum Heights Democrat George Bachman, serving his last term on the County Council, said the plan sounded reasonable. "When you have it, you spend it," he said.

Gary said that in compiling the $881 million operating budget and the $200.7 million capital budget he presented, he tried to concentrate new spending in one-time expenses such as buildings, not on expanding bureaucracies.

The operating budget he put together is up 7 percent over this year's $822 million plan. Property tax revenue is up $6.1 million, even with the rate cut required by the tax cap, and income tax revenues are up $10.8 million.

Another $16.5 million is from a surplus in the previous fiscal year, and $13.5 million came from unexpected income taxes.

Gary wants more teachers

Here's where Gary would spend all the money:

The school board will get $17.5 million in new money for a total of $454.6 million, including state and federal contributions. Gary wants to hold $3.5 million in a contingency fund his office controls to make the school board use it only to hire teachers.

Gary wants to add $12.4 million for a total of $33.4 million available in cash for construction. That includes $10 million in cash instead of bond money to renovate and expand Belvedere Elementary School in Arnold.

The Police Department will get a $5.2 million increase for new press information, personnel and staff inspection offices and for hiring.

EMS/Fire/Rescue will get an increase of almost $3.4 million, mostly for salary and overtime increases.

Recreation and Parks will get $2.4 million more, with most of that going to pay for the department's takeover of park maintenance from the Department of Public Works.

And while Gary has reduced spending by his office by $21,640 to $2.6 million, he has increased a "contingency fund" that his chief administrative officer holds from $5.4 million to $7.5 million.

The fund usually pays for snow removal, and unexpected expenses such as lawsuits, but in his four years, Gary has turned it into something of a carrot for the school board, with money available only if the board spends it his way.

Brooklyn Park plan funded

The $2.6 million Human Services budget includes $600,000 to lease space in the Lake Shore Plaza Shopping Complex in

Pasadena for a new senior center.

Gary's $200.7 million capital improvement plan includes $14 million for renovation of the former Brooklyn Park High School into a middle school, community center and arts center.

With other proposed school construction funding, the board of education portion totals more than $68 million.

Gary also recommended $3 million for a new Brooklyn Park fire station; $2.8 million to redo an Anne Arundel Community College gym; and $2 million to complete an adult sports complex on Ordnance Road.

In a project that made Crofton and Odenton rivals for a new

library, the new $8.4 million Crofton area library will move forward this year with completion set for 2001.

Gary included money to buy land in Odenton for a West County regional library and for a community college site.

Pub Date: 5/02/98

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