Mayor of Annapolis unveils 2003 budget

Economic development, public safety priorities

April 09, 2002|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer presented the first budget of her administration to the city council last night -- a spending plan that she says is heavy on essentials, with priorities in public safety and economic development.

The $55.6 million operating budget for fiscal year 2003 -- a 1.71 percent increase over the current year's spending -- keeps the tax rate unchanged while creating new staff positions and giving city employees a cost-of-living raise.

It also works toward a concept that Moyer dubbed "the Caring Community" in her State of the City address last night, by providing improved services and helping to coordinate community programs.

In her speech before a standing-room-only crowd in the City Hall council chambers, Moyer portrayed Annapolis as a city that is fiscally strong but for which "maintaining quality of life is the challenge to be addressed in every neighborhood."

After the events of Sept. 11, Moyer said, "the first goal to be addressed is the protection of our citizens."

Moyer's operating budget, along with a $43.3 million capital budget, boosts public safety spending by $2.5 million. That includes $168,000 to hire four emergency medical technicians in the Fire Department.

For the Police Department, the mayor has proposed adding two management positions -- a director of emergency management with a $60,000 salary, and a director of parking and traffic at $41,000 -- while eliminating two of 22 police vacancies. Although the Police Department has funding this year for 128 officers, it has only 106 on the force.

The mayor has also allotted $360,000 to design an addition to police headquarters on Taylor Avenue.

"We need a Police Department that is technologically up to date and has space for everyone," Moyer said in a briefing yesterday morning for reporters.

In her budget, Moyer also is seeking to address what she said has become a major obstacle in hiring and retaining public safety personnel -- its failure to pay for the health insurance of retirees.

Moyer has proposed spending $500,000 to provide for the initial cost of health insurance for new retirees in fiscal 2003, which begins July 1 -- an expenditure that Moyer said last night is the one in which "I take the most personal satisfaction."

The mayor is proposing a cost-of-living raise for all city employees of about 2 percent, pending negotiations with the city's labor unions. About 86 percent of employees will also be eligible for a 5.36 percent step increase this year, based on performance.

Pointing to a threat to the city's economy from the county's planned town center in Parole -- which Moyer called an "edge city" -- she said, "To ensure the vitality of our business sector, we have to aggressively pursue opportunities for new and existing businesses."

To do this, Moyer plans to beef up the city's economic development office. She is proposing two new positions at salaries of $50,000 -- a minority business enterprise director, and business development coordinator, the latter to be filled by former Alderman Joseph Sachs, who has been working in that position contractually.

Also in the mayor's operating and capital budgets are:

$70,000 to hire an additional full-time attorney for the office of City Attorney Paul G. Goetzke, to cut down on contractual costs and assist him and part-time Assistant City Attorney Karen P. Ruff.

$65,000 to hire a coordinator of social and community service, a position that was recommended by a number of the mayor's transition teams and would coordinate community programs and act as a liaison with other governments.

$1.9 million to replace the city's technology and computer system to allow for improved accounting, Web-based bill payment, employee performance review and community correspondence.

$220,000 for a $1.1 million project to revamp the city's traffic signal system.

$5.57 million for Phase 2 of the West Street infrastructure and streetscape improvements.

$350,000 for the design of a new recreation center.

$6.38 million for construction of the planned Knighton Garage on West Street.

The city council will hold a public hearing on the mayor's budget at 7 p.m. April 29 in its chambers at City Hall. Public hearings before the city's finance committee will begin next week.

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