Panel supports raising property tax rate

Increase of 13.6 percent, or 4.8 cents, suggested by city's finance committee

April 17, 2002|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

The average Westminster homeowner would pay about $60 more in property taxes next fiscal year under a proposal to help the Carroll County seat meet the needs of a growing population.

The Common Council's finance committee has proposed raising the tax rate - the first increase in five years - to balance a $12 million budget for fiscal 2003, which begins July 1. The increase would mean about $500,000 in additional revenue, said L. Gregory Pecoraro, the finance committee chairman.

Trying to balance the proposed budget, city officials have slashed $2.1 million in spending - mostly for public works projects such as road improvements, a skate park expansion, and street lighting.

"A lot of things need to happen in this city," Pecoraro said. "The money hasn't come in like it has before. There's a gap between what's needed and what's taken in. Revenue is not keeping pace with inflation."

Under the committee's proposal, the city's tax rate would increase 4.8 cents to 40 cents per $100 of assessed value, or 13.6 percent. The average Westminster home has an assessed value of $125,000, and the owner pays taxes of about $440 a year.

The finance committee will draft an ordinance authorizing the tax increase and present it to the Common Council on Monday. A public hearing on the tax increase and the proposed budget will be held May 6. The council could take action on both measures as early as the next week.

Underscoring the need for a tax increase, city officials pointed to a growing population, increased demand for services, and more miles of road to maintain. They also pointed to the number of properties in the city that cannot be taxed, including county buildings, churches and schools.

Pecoraro said the city would not be in this position if the Common Council had not slashed taxes in the early 1990s, when the city's tax rate was cut from 36 cents to 33 cents per $100 of assessed value.

About 30 percent of the city's revenue is from personal property taxes.

In a 2 1/2 -hour budget session Monday night, Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster's director of public works and planning, said department heads have worked to trim spending for next fiscal year.

He said projects would be discussed later because state and federal grants or other alternative funding sources might be available.

Council members asked city officials to restore $310,000 for repairs to Royer Road.

The increase also would mean money for other projects, including new salting equipment, improvements to the tot lot at King Park, and a supplemental retirement plan for the Police Department.

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