Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins unveiled yesterday a fiscal 1996 budget that includes a 4-cent cut in the property tax rate, a sharp departure from last year's combination of spending cuts and increases in taxes and fees.
"We've managed ourselves well and we've taken care of our expenses and now we can offer the tax cut," Mr. Hopkins said.
Under his proposal, the tax rate would drop to $1.74 per $100 of assessed valuation. But it is unlikely homeowners would see a drop in their property tax bill because the assessments on their property have increased, said William Tyler, city finance director.
"It'll probably generate the same amount of revenue as last year," Mr. Tyler said. "And taxpayers are likely to spend just the same amount."
Last year, taxes went up because revenues were down, city officials said.
Property assessments fell, boat slip taxes dropped off and the city steadily had been losing revenue from parking meters and fines for several years. In addition, the city administration had only a $145,000 surplus from the previous year to pump back into the budget.
However, this year the city could have a $2 million surplus because of unanticipated money from water and sewer fees and other charges on city-run services, said City Administrator Michael D. Mallinoff.
"The economy has picked up and the overall health of the city has improved," he said. "Basically, we've rebounded and we feel comfortable offering the tax cut."
But Alderman Wayne C. Turner said the tax cut ought to be even larger.
"All they keep doing is adding projects and spending money," the Ward 6 Republican said. "My opinion is, who is looking out for the Ma and Pa of Annapolis on these taxes?"
Mr. Turner said he will propose a 10-cent cut in the property tax rate when the City Council meets next week.
The cut would represent a loss of about $1 million in revenue, he said.
In other areas, the administration's $39.65 million proposal does not stray far from the city's last budget of $37.75 million.
Mr. Hopkins proposed a 2 percent cost of living pay raise for city employees, $40,000 for a new drug treatment program to be administered through the police department, $60,000 to upgrade the city's computer and telephone systems and $50,000 for curb cuts and ramps to meet the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The city also is counting on a $100,000 grant from the county to expand a bus route to Riva Road.
Besides the tax cut, Mr. Hopkins is proposing a $25 a year increase in residential trash pickup fees.
In his State of the City address, released yesterday with the operating budget, Mr. Hopkins identified trash pickup as an area of wasteful spending.
"The spiraling costs of refuse, in particular, poses a thorny problem to be addressed through the combined wisdom of the City Council as a whole," he wrote.
Parking meter and garage rates will remain at 50 cents an hour until December, when they will rise to 75 cents an hour under TC measure passed by the council last month.
l The council finance committee has scheduled hearings on the proposed budget at 6 p.m. April 10, 11 and 12.
The full council will consider the budget proposal in May and must approve the plan before June 30.