Council approves mayor's budget; 2001 spending plan includes one-cent cut in tax rate


The Annapolis council cut the property tax rate by a penny last night and approved the mayor's $47.5 million operating budget for fiscal 2001.

The property tax was cut to $1.67 per $100 of assessed value, but because of a technicality the rate will not be formally approved until May 31.

The tax cut was one of several budget amendments approved by the council.

The council also approved a six-year capital improvements plan with several amendments.

"Our revenues are very strong and there was no tax relief," said Alderman Sheila M. Tolliver, who introduced the amendment to cut the tax rate.

Tolliver's amendments, which passed 5-4, also included adding four foot patrolmen and adding $200,000 for road resurfacing.

The budget is a 7.92 percent spending increase over last year's $44 million budget with an emphasis on improving shuttle transportation and continuing the revitalization of the West Street corridor.

In response to a 50 percent ridership increase in the last 2 1/2 years, Mayor Dean L. Johnson proposed an increase in mass transit shuttle service. City officials see the shuttle service as a way to ease the downtown parking crunch by using commuter lots.

The budget also calls for spending $11.9 million to resurface the roadway and replace 120-year-old water lines and outdated sewer system along the Inner West Street Corridor, which stretches from Westgate Circle to Church Circle.

More than $8 million has been allocated to build the Cecil and Martha Knighton Facility at West Street and Colonial Avenue, a 500-space parking garage heralded as a key to the revitalization of the corridor.

The city's Finance Committee recommended to the city council that the garage be built with office space for city use. The committee suggested that the city's Planning and Zoning Department could use the office space because it has outgrown the old firehouse across from City Hall.

But the city's Planning Commission suggested leaving undetermined the use of additional space in the garage as well as the number of parking spaces.

The council voted to accept the commission's recommendation and approve the garage project with mixed-use space.

Community leaders and business owners have been outspoken on the additional use of the garage and the number of spaces. Some would like to see retail or restaurants in the facility and some have asked for fewer spaces in the garage to reduce congestion on surrounding streets.

The mayor has appointed two committees charged with researching the design and use of the facility. The committees have been asked to report back no later than June 15.

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