Council faction wants plan cut Mayor's budget called too costly

increase in tax rate opposed

May 31, 1998|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Some of Annapolis Mayor Dean L. Johnson's pet projects could be postponed or eliminated and his $42.5 million spending proposal slashed under amendments being proposed by a faction of the city council.

The amendments would cut Johnson's proposal by nearly $1 million, give city employees a 2 percent raise and keep the property tax rate at $1.68 per $100 of assessed value. Johnson had proposed a 4-cent increase in the tax rate. The amendments are to be presented tomorrow, the day the council must, by law, adopt a budget.

"A group of us who came with different interests got together and found common ground," said Alderman Sheila M. Tolliver, a Ward 2 Democrat who is leading the charge. "We thought holding the tax rate constant and employee benefits were priority here."

Johnson's plans to give grants for neighborhood improvements, move some city offices to West Street and put a sprinkler system in City Hall would all be postponed under the amendments, cutting more than $600,000 from the budget.

"This is not an attack on the mayor," Tolliver said. "We're not in a contest, if anyone is suggesting that. We tried to preserve his highest-priority plans. And we're just trying to do the best thing pTC for city residents at the same time."

The amendments also have the support of Republican Herb McMillan of Ward 5 and Democrats Louise Hammond of Ward 1 and Cynthia Carter of Ward 6.

Critical statement

McMillan was not as charitable as Tolliver in a statement printed in The Capital newspaper.

Because no jobs would be eliminated or salaries cut in Johnson's plan to reorganize city departments, "the changes will not save money or increase efficiency," McMillan wrote last week. "The shells have simply been moved around and given new names.

"The mayor's 'We can do it all, we just can't do it all at once,' philosophy has led to an overreaching, excessive budget," he wrote. "Departmental shuffling absent savings, unnecessary office-building expenditures, and poorly planned grant programs do not fulfill this criteria."

Noting that no one showed up to support or oppose his plan during public hearings this month, Johnson said, "I stand by my budget. But with $42 million, we can have a few disagreements."

He appeared before the city council finance committee last week to ask for amendments that would give city employees a 2 percent raise. Police officers and firefighters would get an additional 1 percent because of changes in pension plans, Johnson added.

Also, by consolidating a few projects and cutting some money for the proposed move of city offices, Johnson said he believed that the council would pass a 3-cent tax increase instead of the proposed 4-cent one.

Besides keeping the tax rate unchanged, which would cut about $400,000 in revenue, the Tolliver group's amendments would eliminate $125,000 budgeted for consultants to develop a parks and paths project, and transportation and other plans.

Traffic circle

Much of that would go toward cost-of-living raises for employees that are negotiating contracts with the city.

Tolliver said projects saved would include renovating the Stanton Community Center, building the West Street-Taylor Avenue traffic circle, and road, water and sewer improvements.

The finance committee has proposed cutting almost $22,000 from the budget and shifting money to other small projects.

"We did not tinker with the tax rate at all, and we did not go in with a predetermined number that we had to cut," said Alderman Joseph Sachs, a Ward 4 Republican who is chairman of the committee. "If we felt it was really needed, we kept it. If we had reservations, we cut it."

The major changes recommended by this committee were cutting funds for City Hall renovations and neighborhood grants, but pumping most of that money into other projects.

Pub Date: 5/31/98

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