3 percent raises proposed in budget for Bel Air town employees

Employees of the Bel Air town government are expected to get 3 percent raises next year, if the budget is approved as proposed.

The Bel Air town commissioners held their final budget work session Tuesday as town officials finalize the $15.07 million budget for the 2014 fiscal year.


Town finance director Lisa Moody noted the town has not provided salary "steps," or increases in four to five years, and town administrators are working to get Bel Air employee salaries in line with surrounding municipalities and the Consumer Price Index.

The commissioners agreed to the 3 percent – $193,342 has been set aside for the adjustment.

The tentative budget introduced before the commissioners earlier this spring will be the subject of a public hearing during Monday's town meeting.

The public can also weigh in on proposed updates to the town's fire codes – Ordinance 760-13 updates Bel Air's fire regulations to include a prohibition on temporary "membrane structures" – such as tents or canopies – on buildings "on any story above the lowest level of exit discharge."

Town Administrator Chris Schlehr said tents placed on buildings in town have been a "concern" among officials.

"A membrane structure is inherently not safe when put on a building," he explained Thursday. "It's almost impossible to have the proper fire exits and fire lanes around the tent."

During Tuesday's budget session, the commissioners and town officials reviewed the proposed budgets for enterprise funds, including the $2.2 million sewer fund and the $480,000 parking fund, and the special revenue fund.

"The purpose of the special revenue fund is to account for grants or other special projects that really don't lend themselves to the normal fiscal year budgeting," Moody explained. "They roll from year to year."

The special revenue fund for FY 2014 includes funding for projects such as "stormwater system enhancements" in the 700 block of Shamrock Road ($35,000); the second phase of the Armory "marketplace" project to turn former garages at the Reckord Armory into temporary facilities for small businesses ($175,000); improvements to Plumtree Park ($142,000), $45,000 for the town's Revolving Loan Fund, which provides loans to local businesses, and $50,000 in Program Open Space funds for trails at Rockfield Park.

The commissioners also discussed their budget priorities for FY 2014, which included spending up to $270,000 on projects such as $20,000 to $30,000 for a consultant to assist the town with developing its stormwater management fee program – municipalities must set stormwater fees, similar to what Harford County will charge its residents to fund stormwater management projects to keep pollutants out of the Chesapeake Bay.

Other projects include $180,000 to convert Western Alley into a town street, $20,000 for a town employee salary study and $40,000 toward a study conducted in concert with the Baltimore Metropolitan Council to determine how best to alleviate traffic congestion at Route 1 and Route 24.

The majority of the cost of these projects would be supported by $221,868 in an unexpected windfall in Highway User Revenues from the state – town funds would cover the remainder of the price tag.