Crofton residents will get a chance to debate and vote on a budget tonight that increases spending 8.6 percent but shaves 1 cent off the tax rate for the special tax district.

"It is very important that people come and be a part in the process," said Ed Dosek, president of the Crofton Civic Association.

"If the people sit at home and do nothing, they hardly have a right to say anything one way or another."

In December, the board of directors approved a $550,000 budget that would increase spending $43,000 over this year's level. The budget goes into effect July 1.

Because the proposed increase exceeds 5 percent, the general membership must approve it.

But to compensate for the jump, board members proposed reducing the tax rate to 28 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

Dosek said $15,000 would have to be cut to bring the budget under the 5 percent cap.

"We can find it," he said, adding that money allocated for legal fees for increased covenant enforcement could be reduced. "Then where do we go next? Do we empty Town Hall?"

The board increased the budget for legal fees from its current $11,000 to $20,000, expecting that several covenant violations may have to be resolved in court.

Residents also will be asked to make Lee Longo, the association's current part-time secretary, a full-time administrative assistant, raising her salary from $13,553 to $20,970.

"These two things alone may have caused the tax cap to be exceeded," Dosek said.

But residents will have some flexibility. If they don't want more money spent on covenant enforcement, for instance, they can put back some of the money into a fund for fighting gypsy moths, which was cut by the board. The fund now has $11,000.

The cuts weremade from Town Manager Jordan Harding's proposed budget, which sought a 12 percent increase.

Dosek said he doesn't know what to expectfrom residents concerning the budget increase.

"You always have problems in that you have to answer questions like, 'Why do you need more money?' " he said.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonightat the Crofton Elementary School.

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