City council OKs $42 million budget Plan allows 2% raise for city employees, 2-cent tax rate rise

June 02, 1998|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

After much debate and last-minute calculations, a divided Annapolis city council voted 5-to-4 last night to pass Mayor Dean L. Johnson's $42 million spending plan with a 2-cent increase in the tax rate and a 2 percent raise for city employees.

Despite rumblings from a faction on the council that proposed deeper cuts, Johnson got his budget passed by introducing and then successfully lobbying for support of his own amendments, which cut almost $1 million from the original budget.

The amendments included a concession allowing for a 2-cent increase instead of 4-cent increase in the property tax, which means city residents will pay $1.70 per $100 of assessed value.

Johnson also cut funds originally earmarked for projects such as City Hall renovations, neighborhood improvements, relocating city offices to West Street and creating a city transportation plan.

Some members of the council criticized the budget last night for not doing more for city employees, who are negotiating new contracts with the city. Others felt it made a reasonable effort.

Supporters also said the budget left intact vital projects such as buying city vehicles and repairing the city's deteriorating infrastructure.

"We promised streetscape renovations for West Street. We promised sewage maintenance. We made all kinds of promises," said Alderman Samuel Gilmer, a Ward 3 Democrat, before his vote to approve the spending plan. "I want to see this city flourish. I'm tired of watching this city sitting back and falling apart.

"I say don't fight everything," Gilmer pleaded with fellow council members. "Don't knock it down over a few pennies that no one's arguing over but you."

Besides Gilmer, Johnson's amendments won support from Democrat Ellen O. Moyer of Ward 8 and Republicans Joseph Sachs of Ward 4 and Michael E. Fox of Ward 7.

Much of the wrangling began weeks ago as another faction on the council -- led by Democrat Sheila M. Tolliver of Ward 2 -- proposed similar changes. Tolliver's changes sought to maintain the tax rate while giving city employees 2 percent more.

Johnson's amendments seemed to combine a number of new proposals with ones introduced by the council's finance committee and Tolliver's group. It put money into new items such as $25,000 for police overtime for city events, $40,000 to bring City Dock bathrooms up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards and put money back into the city contingency fund.

Tolliver said, "While I appreciate that the mayor's revised amendments moves in the direction we are proposing, I simply don't believe it moves far enough."

When it became evident last night that his faction did not have enough support, Tolliver proposed another set of amendments to the budget at the last minute to move $260,000 more to employee salaries and give them a total of 3 percent.

The motion failed 6-3 vote, with Republican Herbert McMillan of Ward 5 dissenting.

City employees, who filled council chambers, applauded the Tolliver efforts but said they were disappointed by the numbers.

"It's a step forward from where we started, but we're not budging from out bottom line 4 percent increase we're asking for," said Officer John Miller, chief steward for the city police union.

As a part of the budget, police officers and firefighters would get an additional 1 percent raise on top of the 2 percent pay increase because of upgrades in their pension payment plans.

Pub Date: 6/02/98

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