Crofton homeowners approve 2005 budget to spend $1 million

Spending to rise $36,000

no calls for tax increase or dropping police force

January 22, 2004|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

Crofton homeowners overwhelmingly have approved the town's proposed budget for fiscal year 2005, authorizing about $1 million in spending for the special benefits tax district's police force, payroll and maintenance needs.

Expenses for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, will run about $36,000 more than they did last year because of a cost-of-living increase for the town's employees and an increase in some of the insurance premiums. But unlike in past years, Crofton's leaders did not propose a tax increase.

The property tax rate is 12.3 cents per $100 of assessed value, and because home values are increasing quickly in the western corner of the county, the tight-knit, bucolic town did not need to raise taxes to cover the expense increase.

Crofton leaders breathed a sigh of relief after Tuesday night's 93-1 vote. In past years, budget meetings have become contentious, with residents complaining about poor Crofton Parkway maintenance and some even suggesting that Crofton doesn't need its own six-officer police force.

Though Anne Arundel County police dispatch Crofton's calls and county officers supply back-up during major investigations, Crofton police handle most routine calls.

Town Manager Barbara Swann was particularly worried this year that the meeting wouldn't get its required quorum of 75 homeowners. Though Crofton's special benefits district has about 10,000 residents, only a small percentage usually attend to vote.

Town officials also were concerned about competition from the State of the Union address, the discouraging effect of frigid weather and the fact that the meeting, usually on a Monday, was moved to Tuesday because of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"It was a good turnout for as cold as it was," Swann said yesterday from her office in Town Hall. "We were really surprised and really appreciated the commitment that people had."

Crofton, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, is one of the state's fastest-growing areas, according to the 2000 Census figures. Home prices in the triangle between Routes 3, 424 and 450 range from about $250,000 for a townhouse to $400,000 for a large home in an exclusive neighborhood.

Many residents have said that the few hundred dollars extra they pay every year to have benefits such as their own police force is worth it, and some point to it as the reason they chose a home "inside the triangle" as opposed to a neighborhood outside.

But at past budget meetings, other residents have questioned the expense and suggested doing away with the department.

On Tuesday night, there was no such talk - only praise for the force, Swann said.

Longtime resident Paul Yates said that not only do the police force and the town hall set Crofton apart, but they also make residents feel safer.

"I am delighted that the budget passed," he said.

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