Mayor seeks rise in budget

$47.5 million proposal would increase spending by 7.92%

Tax rate would stay level

Plan emphasizes mass transportation, West Street renewal

April 11, 2000|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

Annapolis Mayor Dean L. Johnson proposed a city operating budget of about $47.5 million -- a package free of a property tax increase -- at last night's city council meeting.

Under Johnson's plan, the property tax would remain at $1.68 per $100 of assessed value.

The mayor's proposal includes a spending increase of 7.92 percent over last year's $44 million budget, with an emphasis on improving transportation and continuing the revitalization of the West Street corridor.

"We are a city of differences -- different people, different families and different neighborhoods -- each linked by hope," Johnson said during his state of the city address. "My budget contains a variety of programs focused on the needs of this city."

The budget will be sent to the finance committee, which will hold a series of public hearings this month: Wednesday, Monday and April 18, 25 and 27. Each hearing is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The council will also hold a public hearing May 1; it must approve the budget by June 30.

The mayor highlighted some of the proposed projects, such as improving the city's bus system and building a 400- to 450-space parking garage on West Street and Colonial Avenue.

The budget calls for an increase in mass transit shuttle service. In the last 2 1/2 years, Johnson said, ridership in the city bus and trolley system has increased by 50 percent.

The mayor marked $8.6 million for the garage, known as the Cecil and Martha Knighton Facility, and $11.9 million for West Street renovations.

The city has invested $1.7 million in land acquisition and demolition of the site and is reviewing plans to build the garage. The mayor announced last week that he will forgo building a temporary parking lot and focus on development and construction.

The city has planned an extensive renovation for Inner West Street, which includes resurfacing and replacing its 120-year-old water lines and outdated sewer system, where several private projects in the works.

"I view West Street revitalization as our best opportunity to increase our commercial tax base and therefore reduce the pressure on our residential tax base in a city where nearly 40 percent of our property is tax-exempt," Johnson said. "These improvements are not only important to the city, but to Anne Arundel County and the state of Maryland."

Some other budget proposals highlighted last night include: a 5 percent merit increase for city council-appointed employees; $3 million for a recreation center at Truxton Park; and $1.8 million for Edgewood Road improvements.

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