Penny tax-rate increase OK'd by Crofton residents

Measure will generate $21,000 for 2002 budget

January 18, 2001|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

Richard Trunnell was asking his neighbors for only a penny. In return, he was promising a new furnace, a spruced-up park and better landscaping.

Even so, the president of the Crofton Civic Association figured that the 1-cent tax increase his board was recommending for the fiscal 2002 budget - from 26 cents to 27 cents per $100 of assessed value - would be a hard sell. In past years, residents had greeted such requests with protest or failed to show up, leaving the board without its required quorum of 75 homeowners.

But after two hours of questions Tuesday night, Crofton residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of the increase, a move that will generate an additional $21,282 for the fiscal 2002 budget.

That left an exuberant Trunnell to call for a vote on next issue: At what restaurant should the celebration be held?

Trunnell, who was elected in May, said he was pleasantly surprised that the 162-54 vote went smoothly. Last year, residents first complained that they hadn't received adequate notice of the meeting, then rejected the board's spending plans for last year and this year.

"Last year, the budget wasn't ready, the meeting was postponed, and people were confused. It appeared to be a very disorganized presentation," said board member Steve Grimaud.

This year was different.

"We gave them choices. We told them what would happen if it didn't pass," Trunnell said.

As a special benefits tax district, Crofton employs a six-member police force and performs its own maintenance. Residents pay an average of $208 a year for those services. That will increase to an average of $216.

The $957,783 budget for fiscal 2002 will fund 3 percent cost-of-living raises for Crofton's 12 employees. It will also help fund a new furnace and air conditioning unit for its Town Hall, a new recreation area near Good Hope and Urby Drives, and complete erosion repair work at Swann Park, the community's main playground.

The groundwork for Tuesday's relatively smooth meeting was laid in June, when Trunnell took the board camping at Cunningham Falls State Park. Though it rained, the downpour stopped long enough for the group to go hiking and cook. Members of the board, which was left fractured by a year of discord under the ious president, Gayle Sears, said the retreat helped them coalesce.

By October, the board was meeting weekly to work out a 2002 budget. Hard decisions were made, but board members said the process was a healthy give-and-take.

Despite the majority vote, the discussion Tuesday wasn't two hours of bliss.

A few residents accused the board of poor stewardship over tax dollars. Some questioned why they often saw Crofton police cars driving out of the tax district. When Trunnell explained that the officers bought gas at Anne Arundel County's Western District station in Odenton, some residents questioned the prudence of driving so far, even though the gasoline there costs about half what it would at a Crofton station.

Some residents asked whether Crofton needed a full-time police force, an issue that comes up every year. Just as many stood up to commend the police for their quick response time and professionalism.

Edward Laird complained about a hill in the 1400 block of Crofton Parkway, which he said was in bad shape.

"If that's maintenance, then we're in trouble," said the 73-year-old retired Amtrak manager, who voted against the increase.

The board's presentation won over many in a town.

"I think it's a reasonable amount," said Lucille Seborg, a 25-year Crofton resident who had planned to vote against an increase. She called Tuesday night's meeting "the best presentation of a budget in 25 years."

Faye Meyer, another 25-year resident, agreed.

"I never knew what this budget was about. I never understood it," said Meyer, who campaigned for Trunnell. "I've seen too many years when people asked questions and couldn't get clear answers."

As the meeting ended, a majority of association members adjourned to Gardiner's Roadside Grill in Gambrills.

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