HAMPSTEAD - Hampstead Town Council members and staff received a rundown of the draft Fiscal Year 2015 budget Wednesday evening that includes a water rate increase and a property tax rate that's remained the same for about a dozen years.
The budget will be introduced at the May council meeting. A public hearing will be held at the June meeting when the council will vote on the FY15 budget.
The total general government expenses in the draft budget is $3,017,541. This includes $277,000 for capital expenditures and $2,740,541 for operating expenses.
Water rates to increase
Hampstead has increased water rates over several years to help fund the capital intensive water system and, more recently, the replacement of a water main downtown, according to Mayor Christopher Nevin.
The town increased its water rates by 5 percent in FY14 and is slated to do the same this year if the draft budget passes as is.
Those who use up to 5,000 gallons will pay a quarterly flat fee of $34.63, and the rate will increase for those who use more.
"As water rates continue to increase, all utilities are seeing decreases in consumption," Interim Town Manager Kevin Hann said.
Property taxes to hold steady
Property taxes are anticipated to stay at 20 cents per $100 assessed value, according to Nevin, a rate that has remained steady since FY03.
"We've got enough money in the general fund to meet our current needs," Nevin said at the meeting.
Capital improvement plan
Hampstead's capital improvement plan includes replacing two more than 75-year-old water mains with a 12-inch one downtown. The preliminary estimate for this project is $3.3 million, according to Nevin, an amount the town will issue bonds to cover.
Last year, the Maryland Department of Transportation fully funded Hampstead's Main Street Revitalization project to rehabilitate roads, improve sidewalk ramps and crosswalks and more at $20 million. The town plans to spend $300,000 during a to-be-determined year for lighting and other amenities to add to the plan expected to begin construction in 2016.
Additionally, $160,000 was included in the draft plan for FY15 for a new building to hold salt and materials for the town's Department of Public Works.
Currently, the town uses the same salt storage structure that it's had since 1985, and the town has probably tripled in size since that time, Hann told council members and staff.
After the Main Street Revitalization project is complete, the town will take over Main Street from the Maryland State Highway Administration. That means they'll be responsible for the street's maintenance.
"When we take over Main Street, we're obviously going to need a lot more salt on hand," Hann said.
The new building will help with this storage but will also help shield other materials from the elements. For example, there was a four-inch water main break during the winter, and it couldn't be fixed that night because the materials stored outside had turned into solid chunks of ice, Hann said, later thanking the mayor for the funding allocation.