The Aegis
Harford County

Havre de Grace council delays vote on 2015 budget

The Havre de Grace City Council made the unusual move of delaying a vote on the proposed 2015 budget Monday night, agreeing abruptly to recess the council meeting until June 25.

Councilman Fred Cullum, who was alone in opposing the postponement, said it was the first time he witnessed such an action in his 18 years on the council.


"I don't understand what they are trying to accomplish," he said after the meeting, noting that the tax rate has already been set and the mayor presented a balanced budget.

He said he believes the budget had to be passed by Monday, according to the city charter.


Councilman Bill Martin said after the meeting the council has until June 30 to vote. He said the council has asked city officials for more information on the budget.

"We are not ready [to vote]," Martin said, explaining with a smile he intends to shake up the typical budget approval process.

"It's no longer business as usual," he said. "No more complacency."

Martin said the next meeting, which is on a Wednesday, will see "a lot of amendments being made."

One question he had was regarding the projected health care costs, which he hopes will be estimated better by June 25.

Martin said he does not know exactly how much the budget would be cut but "every dollar right now is very important to the citizens."

"It's going to be cut, but how deep and how far depends on a lot of things that come up," he said.

He noted, for example, he was not happy to see that $200,000 put aside for new tanks for the Susquehanna Hose Company was missing from the budget this year because it had been put toward the general fund.


"The most important thing for us is to keep our word to the Hose Company," Martin said.

Martin added he is also considering cutting employee salaries.

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Cullum said everyone agrees that using money from the emergency fund and the Marina fund is not right, but the council could have introduced amendments and made changes to fix that Monday.

Cullum said the council ignored the real budget problem, which has been the sinking water and sewer fund, and is trying to fix a problem that does not exist.

During the vote to delay action on the budget, Cullum said he would not be able to make the June 25 meeting because his wife is having surgery. The council did not react to the news of his absence and scheduled the meeting anyway.

The council already reduced a proposed 15 percent water and sewer rate hike earlier this month. Martin has said he is determined to avoid raising taxes and has a "strong feeling" housing construction will pick up soon, increasing city revenues.


Mayor Wayne Dougherty had proposed a budget of roughly $15.4 million for 2015, a spending cut of $835,000 from the previous year.

No merit increases or cost-of-living adjustments were suggested for city employees and a hiring freeze was scheduled instead.

The real property tax rate was left at 56 cents per $100 of assessed value.