Havre de Grace's mayor proposes $12.1 million budget for 2013, slight tax rate decrease

Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty Monday proposed a $12.1 million budget for the city in 2013, offering a 1-cent reduction in the city real property tax rate to 58 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The current budget for fiscal year 2012 is about $12 million. Actual operating expenses for fiscal year 2012 are $8 million.

Dougherty said he is budgeting the general fund to finish the year with a $450,000 surplus because the water and sewer fund is budgeted to end with a $500,000 deficit.

"This is going to be the worst year for the city. It's going to be the worst year for a lot of jurisdictions," he told the council.

Dougherty is also proposing a $500 personal property tax credit to encourage local businesses to invest in their infrastructure.

He noted this year's income tax revenue was especially high because the state issued a one-time payment of $135,000 to reconcile some prior years.

Grant revenue is expected to increase almost $275,000, but the Maryland State Highway Administration is estimating the city's highway user fees will decrease $50,000.

Overall spending is budgeted to be $14.4 million, an increase of $300,000.

"The goal is to make sure the enterprise fund meets its debt commitments," Dougherty told city council members during their meeting Monday. "The 2003 budget responsibly maintains city services and infrastructure and provides modest financial relief."

"This year, it's going to be a very difficult year for everyone but I think the city of Havre de Grace will come out fine in the end," he said. "This is the year for the deep breath."

Councilman Fred Cullum said he hopes to have a charter amendment to the budget that would put the water and sewer plan on a five-year plan instead of an annual schedule, with 5 percent annual increases in user rates.

Council President Billy Martin said the first work session on the budget will be at 6 p.m. Monday and will deal with the enterprise fund.

A session on the general fund will take place at 6 p.m. April 1.

Events parking

Also at Monday's meeting, the council introduced resolutions for an agreement with the National Park Service to support a historic trail featuring the city's role in the War of 1812 and applying for a Sustainable Community designation from the state.

The council argued about whether to close off part of downtown to cars during First Fridays after Councilman Jim Miller proposed the idea.

"The number of people this event is trying to attract and the amount of traffic don't mix anymore," Miller said. The event's organizers, however, said they are not asking to close Pennington Avenue.

Martin said the organizers' original request should be approved but added he likes Miller's ideas and urged the organizers to consider them.

First Fridays will run from May 4 to Nov. 2.

The council approved the farmers market from May 5 to Oct. 27, the Harford Memorial Hospital Celebration Run on Sept. 22 and the Relay for Life on June 8.

Street work

Bill Reeder, with the public works department, said Giles Street will still have to be repaved and have some piping installed. Reconstruction will be done on Lewis Lane from Route 40 to Halls Road, and work will be done on Tydings Park near the upper part by Commerce Street.

Minor maintenance will be done to the Lewis Lane bridge and a couple stormwater management projects are planned at Lewis Lane and Revolution Street, he said.

Councilwoman Barbara Wagner said the Green Team will have a public meeting at 7 p.m. on April 14 in the police station conference room. The team hopes to put together a community garden, she said, and is looking for sponsorship opportunities as well as input on possible locations.

Councilman Randy Craig said the city's Arts Commission will have a concert by artists from the Lyric Opera House on May 6 at the Havre de Grace United Methodist Church.

For an additional fee, attendees can be part of a special reception at Laurrapin Grille, he said.

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