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Commitment to Community Guides: Adoption of annual budget

Commitment to Community Guides
Adoption of annual budget

Hagerstown, MD: For the eighth year in a row, Hagerstown's Mayor and City Council adopted an operating budget Tuesday night without raising the City's property tax rate.
Over the past two years, Hagerstown has experienced a loss of over six million dollars in General Fund Revenue from reduced State and County Shared Taxes and lower Property Tax Assessments.
Rather than raise the tax rate, Hagerstown's Mayor and Council have continued to reduce the costs of City operations. Their adoption of the 2011/2012 Fiscal Year budget includes a five percent reduction in General Fund expenditures which brings the total of all funds and operations to $106,222,003 for the coming year.
"Our commitment to the community remains very strong," said Bruce Zimmerman, City Administrator. "We realize that our citizens are still being affected by the economic recession in many ways, and we have chosen to lower expenditures to avoid putting an additional burden on our community."
"In my 30 years with the City, we've never seen a decrease in Property Tax Assessment values," said Al Martin, the City's Budget Officer. "This year's drop was unprecedented."
Despite the drop in General Fund Revenue, City residents and business owners will receive the same City property tax rate that was lowered by Mayor and Council back in 2008. In addition, a lower County tax rate means the combined City and County rate for Hagerstown property owners in the coming year will be 12.5 cents less than it was in 2009.
With a commitment to "Reinventing Hagerstown," City employees are supporting the Mayor and Council's efforts by forfeiting Cost-Of-Living Adjustments and pay step increases. In addition, City departments are now operating with fewer staffed positions.
"We're being strategic in adjusting our operations," said Zimmerman. "Our City departments are finding new ways to live with less and still provide strong public services that we pride ourselves in as a community."
Next year's budget includes two revenue adjustments. Mayor and Council voted to align Hagerstown's parking meter rates with comparable municipalities. City Center patrons will pay 50 cents an hour on weekdays from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. The price of monthly parking permits will not change and parking at night and on the weekends will remain free.
"Our parking meter rate has been the same since 1986," said Budget Officer Martin. "Frederick and Annapolis have parking meter rates of one dollar an hour, and Cumberland currently charges 50 cents per hour. Even with the 25 cent increase, our rates are on par or half of those of nearby urban communities."
In addition, City residents will notice a $3.50 quarterly increase in Trash and Recycling Services fees. This adjustment provides only the revenue needed to cover the cost of the program.
"The trash and recycling services provided in the City are one of the major financial advantages to living in Hagerstown," said Martin. "The minimal increase keeps our rate of $41 per quarter still significantly lower in comparison to other trash services offered outside the City."
In the end, Mayor and City Council voted unanimously to approve next year's operating budget.
"The choices we've made in adopting this budget reflect our commitment to Hagerstown," said Mayor Robert Bruchey. "We've reduced costs while continuing to support a good quality of life for our residents."

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