Proposal seeks 6% increase in town employees' salaries

Officials plan boost without raising taxes

May 02, 2000|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

A tight labor market has prompted Taneytown officials to propose a hefty 6 percent pay increase for all 30 full- and part-time town employees in next year's budget.

"It's an employee's market," said Taneytown Mayor Henry C. Heine Jr. Finding and keeping good workers is so difficult, the mayor said, that city officials had decided to raise the salaries for new employees. It didn't seem fair, they said, not to also raise the salaries of those on the payroll, Heine said.

The city will raise salaries without raising the tax rate, however, because growth and alternative sources of funds are helping city coffers grow, said City Manager Charles P. "Chip" Boyles Jr.

Like other Carroll towns, Taneytown has had trouble hiring and keeping police officers, although the 10-person force is fully staffed now. But a search for a certified wastewater treatment plant operator has taken about a year, Boyles said, and the city has two such positions open.

"We had a certified operator out of Pennsylvania who was interested, but we couldn't match what he was making," Boyles said. That potential hire would have required additional training to be certified for working at wastewater treatment plants the size of Taneytown's.

Starting salary for entry-level police officers and certified wastewater plant operators is $23,970. With the raises, that could go up to $25,408.

Municipal jobs such as police officers and water treatment operators are doubly difficult to fill because the candidates need specific training. Police officers must complete six months of training at the police academy, and a water treatment operator must have three years of experience and pass a state test to be certified.

In the proposed budget, which will be voted on at the council's meeting May 9, the tax rate of 78 cents per $100 assessed valuation would remain the same, as it has for about 15 years, Boyles said.

But the city expects tax revenues to be up by 14 percent because of about 50 new homes and increased values for existing homes. Taneytown expects to raise $737,492 in taxes for the fiscal year beginning July 1, compared with $644,895 raised for the fiscal year ending June 30.

The budget proposes operating expenses of $1.512 million, a 14 percent increase over the current $1.327 million operating budget. The total includes state funds and income and real estate tax revenues.

"We are coming up with additional funding sources that are helping us to keep from raising taxes," Boyles said.

He said Taneytown is leasing space on its water towers for three cellular phone companies to place antennas, a deal that nets the city about $30,000 a year. A move to a "cash management account" that allows a bank to invest the city's money in government-backed securities could earn $25,000 to $30,000 a year for Taneytown, he said.

Heine said he also expects the city will save money under the deregulation of electricity by joining other municipalities to bargain for a better rate.

The total general fund budget proposal, which includes operating expenses and construction projects, is $2.873 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, compared with the $1.656 million budget this year.

Much of the increase is tied to the city's expected construction of a police station at an estimated cost of $500,000, renovation of City Hall at an estimated $250,000 and the repair of several streets and paving a new downtown parking lot at a cost of $457,500.

The money for the streets will come from savings, Boyles said. The city hopes to get a loan from the state for the police station and City Hall projects.

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