A proposed Bel Air budget for fiscal year 2020, with no tax increases and no cuts in services, was presented to the Board of Town Commissioners Monday evening.
The $17.9 million spending package, as proposed by Town Administrator Jesse Bane, includes a $13.7 million general fund, $2.48 million sewer fund, $579,000 parking fund and a $1.08 million special revenue fund, according to budget documents.
Bane said town officials recommend keeping the real property and personal property tax rates the same at 50 cents per $100 of assessed value and $1.16 per $100 assessed value, respectively.
The five commissioners approved, unanimously, Resolution 1128-19 marking their receipt of the proposed budget with the recommended tax rates from the town administrator.
Commissioner Phil Einhorn noted it has been about 15 years since the Town of Bel Air increased tax rates — Bane confirmed the last tax increase happened in 2004 — and he thanked town officials for their efforts.
“I don’t know of another town our size in the country that could probably say that, and it just takes a lot of dedication, a lot of work on everybody’s part and I just want to congratulate you,” Einhorn said.
Resident Fran Johnson, who spoke during the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting, expressed her concern that it has been so many years since the last tax increase and that the next increase could be a “whopper” with the rising cost of providing services.
“We have had to really squeeze services, we’ve had to really squeeze our staff,” Johnson said. “It’s not something we should really be patting ourselves on the back [for].”
She cited plans to build a new police station to replace the aging facility currently attached to Town Hall on North Hickory Avenue.
Three options were presented to the public during a workshop last November. Two options called for renovating and expanding the existing building and a third called for a new standalone structure, with costs for the three options ranging from $8.5 million to $11.4 million.
The three options for a new space for Bel Air Police Department — two are renovations and expansion of the existing building and one a new, free-standing building — are expected to cost between $8.5 million and $11.4 million.
The town will host a public input meeting on the new police station next Monday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m. in the Bel Air Armory. Johnson noted she will not be able to attend that meeting so she wanted to include her thoughts during her comments before the commissioners Monday.
She said there is “a nationwide crisis in people not respecting the police force these days.”
“In order to show these officers that we respect them, let’s give them decent desks, decent space,” she said.
Johnson told the commissioners that increasing taxes will not “make someone come and TP (toilet-paper) your house.”