1-cent tax cut is an option

Residents' rejection of two spending plans leaves a surplus

`It's very reasonable'

Discussion tabled until Feb. meeting to get exact figures

January 26, 2000|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

The Crofton Civic Association will consider a 1-cent cut in its 27-cent tax rate now that residents have rejected proposed spending plans for fiscal 2000 and fiscal 2001, forcing the board to cut about $68,000 it had planned to spend over two years.

Association board members decided after Monday's three-hour special budget meeting with residents, during which both the fiscal years' spending plans were rejected, to table the discussion on a tax decrease until the next board meeting Feb. 14, when all board members could be present and Town Manager Barbara Swann could give exact figures on the available surplus.

Three members were absent because of illness and travel.

Residents' rejection Monday night of the two budgets means that spending this year and next will be held to $600,849 -- the amount approved by the community for fiscal 1999.

As a result, $30,000 to $40,000 designated for spending from reserves could be available to give back to residents in the form of a tax break when the board's $38,000 in cuts from the 2001 budget proposal and about $14,000 extra anticipated from new property value assessments are added.

Residents, angry over board actions that kept them in the dark about $300,000 in reserves that were never shown in any previous budget, pushed for the tax cut, hoping they could use some of that money to offset community tax burdens.

One resident tried to force the issue to a vote during the budget meeting, but a former parliamentarian told board president Gayle Sears such a vote would be out of order, and she rejected the motion.

Every penny in the special tax district rate adds about $20,000 to community coffers and cost residents between $8 and $10, depending on the value of their homes.

The Civic Association board raised the tax rate by a penny last year.

"I think it's very reasonable," to propose a tax cut, Sears said yesterday. "We're going to have so much money; we're talking tens of thousands in income that we can't spend."

Sears said she might also look into the possibility of making the tax cut effective for the 2000 budget, but said she would have to talk to county officials about that.

The County Council has sent Crofton its portion of tax dollars for the fiscal 2000 year.

In three months of wrangling with complicated budget figures and haggling with the county over how to present the plans to residents, a tax cut had never been key in the discussions.

Both votes were close.

Of the 131 residents attending the meeting, 129 voted, and the move to reject the fiscal 2000 plan for carried by three votes.

The county budget office required a community vote on the plan for a second time because the one residents approved last January did not show about $300,000 held by the community in reserve accounts.

Residents rejected the 2001 plan with a vote of 62-50 with six residents abstaining.

That spending plan called for $638,000 in expenditures -- a $38,000 increase.

Sears told residents that the board could cut $14,680 from public safety, $12,295 from maintenance and $11,010 from administration without negatively affecting the community.

The squeeze on maintenance would be most noticeable, with about $5,000 slated to replace dying plants throughout the community cut from the budget.

About $3,000 which would have gone to redesigning Lake Louise also was axed, along with $1,000 that would have been placed in an account to replace the maintenance truck. The maintenance portion of the budget still would see an overall increase from above this year's budget.

The public safety's budget saves $5,000 in health insurance premiums because none of the Crofton police force takes family benefits. Another $6,500 that routinely goes to the police vehicle replacement reserve account would be held back.

In the administration portion of the budget, the board voted to cut $3,000 in legal fees, reduce the cost of the newsletter by $1,500, forgo performance awards for employees, and cut $3,500 from the contingency fund.

Employees still would receive a 2 percent cost of living adjustment this year.

Sears said residents can expect to see the maintenance truck paid for and a new police cruiser purchased out of the 2000 budget.

The board will take money from a $22,000 contingency fund to pay for some of the $30,000 expense, and use money that was not spent for six months when the police force was short an officer to pay for the rest, she said.

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