Manchester water rate to increase

Property tax rate held steady by Town Council

May 13, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Manchester's water rate will increase slightly in the coming fiscal year, but the Town Council has held the line on the property tax.

That might not be possible next year, Mayor Christopher B. D'Amario said after a public hearing on the fiscal 2005 budget Tuesday night, at which the council unanimously passed a $1.2 million operating budget, a $473,000 budget for the town water fund and $621,000 for the sewer fund.

The property tax rate remains at 18.4 cents per $100 of assessed value for fiscal 2005.

"Not to sound like the grim reaper, but we may not be so lucky next year," D'Amario said. "This budget was very difficult to put together. ... To be able to maintain the tax rate was very difficult, and it's a very tight budget."

After the meeting, he said town officials had to do some last-minute tinkering because of an unexpected increase in projected electricity costs, which affects all three budgets, with the advent of deregulation in the coming fiscal year.

"We even thought we might have to readvertise it," he said of the proposed property tax rate, because it appeared that an increase might be necessary this year.

"The biggest expense is electric supply," said Kelly J. Baldwin, Manchester's finance director, outlining the spending plan at the outset of the hearing. Town officials had hoped for an increase of 8 percent for electricity costs and had budgeted for 15 percent, but they learned Monday that it would increase 38 percent, she said.

The water rate will increase from $1.80 per 1,000 gallons to $2.10, about $5 per quarter for an average family, Baldwin said.

Capital projects, which are included in the three budgets, include items such as a new copying machine, radar units, a mower, a skid loader, guardrails, split-rail fencing and money for a new part-time naturalist at the town nature center.

A separate ordinance was passed to allow the town to designate money annually for Manchester Fire Engine & Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1. The money comes from a $350 safety-service fee for new residences that was imposed in 1993.

In other business:

Public works director Steven L. Miller reminded residents of the town's long-standing ban on watering lawns. He noted an increase in water use last month and "some residents with pretty green lawns, more than you would get from the rainfall."

The town skate park was temporarily closed - it is to reopen today - after a picnic table from a nearby pavilion was placed inside the park for the second time this year, said Manchester Police Chief Charles L. Lewis Jr. Councilman Dale Wilder plans a meeting with youths about park problems.

D'Amario noted a request from Carroll County Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr. that incorporated towns adopt ordinances requiring sprinklers in new homes, as Mount Airy has done. He suggested that the council consider the matter this summer.

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