Budget increase of 4.3% proposed

No tax boost sought

mayor asks higher sewer, water rates

April 13, 1999|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Annapolis Mayor Dean L. Johnson proposed a city operating budget of nearly $44.1 million last night, a 4.3 percent increase in spending without any increase in the property tax.

It's a jump in spending that the city can afford, Johnson said, before presenting his budget proposal to the City Council. He based his assertion on an estimated 3.84 percent increase from last year in real estate values.

Johnson, who took heat last year for raising property taxes from $1.68 per $100 of assessed value to $1.70, stressed that the city needs to increase water and sewer rates this year.

The proposed budget, which Johnson discussed in a half-hour State of the City address, allocates $34.3 million -- more than half his six-year $67.78 million capital improvement program -- to updating the city's wastewater and water systems.

"The real focus of this budget is infrastructure," Johnson said. "If we don't have an increase in water and sewer rates, we'll have to go back and reduce capital expenditure."

The mayor has made improving the city's aging and deteriorating water and sewer systems a top priority recently.

Last night, he also proposed increasing both rates gradually so they would be 62.5 percent more by 2004. Residents would see a 21.7 percent increase the first year, 26.4 percent the next year, followed by a 4.1 percent and then an 8.6 percent boost.

Annapolis water and sewer rates have not been increased in 11 years.

"To those who continue to equate this increase to a tax increase because it's been said it comes out of the same wallet, I would suggest, so does your electric bill, your telephone bill, my cable bill and my food bill," Johnson told the council.

"Failure to enact new rates will require substantial revision to the wastewater and water capital improvement program. If it sounds like bad news, it really isn't that bad. It's reality."

The capital improvement budget proposal also sets aside money for projects Annapolitans have long desired. They include a $1.7 million reconstruction of Edgewood Road and a $2.9 million recreation center at Truxton Park.

State pledges help

The state, Johnson said, has pledged a $100,000 "down payment" on the recreation project.

The budget also proposes allocating $10 million for repaving and redesign of West Street along with putting utilities underground and replacing storm and sewer drains. In addition, $1.7 million has been allotted to design and acquire land for a parking garage along the growing West Street corridor.

The operating budget includes funding for merit step increases for city employees in addition to a 2 percent general pay increase which is now being worked out with the unions.

Emergency fund

The budget also sets aside an $82,000 emergency fund for Y2K problems that may arise, $750,000 for a city vehicle replacement program and $250,000 for street resurfacing.

Johnson said the city's annual refuse collection fee of $267 will remain the same, and the Transportation Fund's budgeted deficit has decreased from nearly $2.1 million to $1.1 million this year.

Said Johnson in closing: "I would caution those voices who look at this budget and say `Cut, cut, cut' to take a moment to realize that they're saying, `Delay, ignore, forget.' "

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