Budget would hold tax rate steady

Plan includes raise in effort to retain good police officers

April 26, 2000|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

The tax rate would remain the same and police officers in Hampstead would get a raise if the mayor and town manager's $1.8 million budget passes as proposed.

"We think the service of our police officers and the people we've been able to attract is very high, and we want to keep them," said Mayor Christopher M. Nevin. "We want to keep [salaries] competitive at least in Carroll County."

Nevin said the town is in good shape financially and continues to qualify for low-interest rates when selling bonds for construction projects. "Expenditures are relatively stable, but we have some badly needed capital projects," said Town Manager Kenneth Decker. "We're not raising taxes."

Hampstead and other small towns are having difficulty recruiting and keeping police officers during a time of record low unemployment in Maryland. The town recently hired an officer to complete its seven-person staff, but that officer will have to go through several months of training -- with pay -- before patrolling the streets of Hampstead.

An officer's starting salary is $24,000, but the proposed budget raises that to $28,000. Also, most other officers would see a raise of about 10 percent in the proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

"We feel like keeping our qualified officers on the job will have a positive impact in cost savings," Decker said.

Raising salaries so that these new officers stay with the town for several years could save money in the long run, Decker said. A high turnover rate will cost the town more money for training and salaries while the officers are in police academies, he said.

"You can't just hire someone and put them on the street," he said. "It's like growing a crop."

"If we don't stay competitive, we're just training them for someone else, and it turns into a revolving door," Nevin said.

Decker presented the proposed budget to the council April 11. The council will hold a budget workshop before a public hearing on the proposal at the council meeting May 9. The council could adopt the budget that night but must do it no later than June 10, according to the Town Charter.

If the proposal is adopted by the Town Council, the tax rate of 45 cents per $100 assessed valuation would stay the same. But though the rate would stay the same, the growing town would raise 5.8 percent more revenue -- about $44,000. The proposal of $1.8 million in the general fund includes two capital projects: $150,000 for resurfacing some of Hampstead's 18 miles of neighborhood streets and $150,000 to build a salt shack and yard for the Public Works Department. The Public Works Department is strapped for space, Decker said, and has to store salt in the same building with equipment. The cramped equipment shed also requires workers to remove all the equipment to reach a vehicle in the back.

Other projects include $50,000 for a hiking and bicycle trail at North Carroll Farms.

In addition to the general fund budget proposal of $1.8 million, the town is proposing a water fund budget of $1.4 million, most of which is made up of the $700,000 expected in bond sales to build a water tower at the north end of town.

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