Westminster council hears request for tax rate cut


The average resident might be happy that Westminster's City Council wants to keep the same tax rate, said Thomas Boyle of Ruby Court, president of the Carroll County Taxpayers Association.

But he said this year is a good time to reduce it, because of people who are laid off or getting no raises while facing rising costs and taxes.

Mr. Boyle was one of four residents who talked about the budget at a public hearing yesterday at City Hall. The council is proposing a $10,782,111 budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The council will vote on the budget at 7 p.m. Monday.

The proposal includes raising $176,400 more in property taxes, while maintaining the same tax rate as the current year. The increase in revenue is possible because the city's tax base has grown.

The tax rate is 83 cents per $100 of assessed value. If the city maintained the constant yield -- raising the same amount of revenue next year as this year -- the tax rate would drop to 77 cents.

"It really should be 77 cents," Mr. Boyle said. "We should be giving that increase in the assessment base back to the taxpayers."

Tough economic times were Mayor Benjamin Brown's argument for not lowering taxes this year.

"I suspect myself that the tax rate is still too high at 83 cents," Mr. Brown said. But because of the uncertainty of the economy, the town needs to raise more money this year to keep up with its own rising costs, he said.

The council cut the rate in 1991 from 91 cents to 83 cents. Mayor Brown at the time had asked them to cut it to 79 cents.

The proposed budget includes four new police officer positions, at about $140,000 to cover salaries, benefits, uniforms and equipment.

City Finance Director Stephen V. Dutterer said the additional officers also would help to address a growing drug problem in the city.

Councilwoman Rebecca Orenstein said downtown needs more of a police presence to discourage loiterers who are scaring away female business owners and patrons.

The budget proposal also would raise sewer fees by 5 percent and water fees by 3 percent to cover inflation in the cost of supplies and the payroll.

Those increases would amount to $12 to $16 a year more for the average household, Mr. Dutterer said.

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