xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Bel Air officials mulling tax hikes in upcoming budget to fund town services

Bel Air Town Administrator Jesse Bane hinted at a possible tax increase for the town’s residents, the first in about 18 years, as the Board of Town Commissioners is set to begin working on the next year’s budget soon.

More details will be announced at Monday’s meeting of the board, Bane said during a Tuesday work session with the commissioners, adding that small tax increases were being considered in the forthcoming draft budget.

Advertisement

Bane said he was reluctant to go into specifics at the Tuesday meeting, but said that any tax increase would be minimal to avoid hurting town residents and businesses — understanding that the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted them.

This is the first time since Bane started working for the town in 2015 that a budget has been drafted up until the last minute, he said, and the town’s staff is “still trying to get the numbers to work.” Because the budget is still in the works, he could not give exact figures of what the increase may look like, when reached Wednesday.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Any increase would be to fund services like police, road plowing, snow removal and other essentials citizens rely on the town for. Each year, Bane said, it has been harder to adequately fund them and still maintain the level of quality citizens expect.

While he does not relish the idea of raising taxes, Bane said he wants to present a responsible budget to the commissioners, who can modify it before its approval. He anticipated long discussions of the budget ahead.

“There is just no way we could continue to provide the quality of services to the town that we have provided in the past, and do the things that we need to do and we have to do, without providing some kind of a tax increase,” he said.

He forecast “heavy hits” from price increases related to personnel, insurance, liability and workman’s compensation that the town could not control in the budget. A presentation of the draft budget on Monday will kick off the multiweek process of holding work sessions and public hearings on the proposed budget before it is eventually adopted by the board of town commissioners in May.

Advertisement

“It gets more difficult every year because of the increase in the demand for services, increasing costs of doing business, the cost of materials,” Bane said.

The last time Bel Air raised taxes was fiscal year 2004, according to town staff. Bane said he was considerate of the pandemic’s economic impact, but said the town could not continue to provide the same quality services at its current tax level.

“We are doing as little as we possibly can with this tax increase to have the least amount of impact on our citizens, but the bottom line is if we want to continue to provide the services that we provided in the past … we just cannot continue with a tax base that is comparable to what the tax level was in 2004,” Bane said. “It just did not work this year.”

Bane also said the town was scheduled to receive about $8.4 from the federal government that has to be spent by 2024. Those funds are part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that Congress passed in March.

Guidance on how to spend the money is forthcoming, and some of it could be used for purposes beyond COVID-related expenses.

“Everything is still up in the air, and we still really are not certain what it is we can spend this money on,” he said.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement