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Town passes fiscal 2006 budget

Ingrid Mezo

(6/22) Emmitsburg town officials passed the town's fiscal 2006 budget Monday, keeping the tax rate steady at 36 cents per $100 of assessed value for residents.

Taxes will increase, however, for town business owners. Town commissioners voted 3-1 to raise the personal property tax rate on business owners to 90 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

Commissioner Art Elder opposed the vote, and Commissioner Bill O'Neil was absent.

The rate will be 15 cents more than the current rate, which has been in effect since July 1, 2001.

"Personal property generally includes furniture, fixtures, office and industrial equipment, machinery, tools, supplies, inventory and any other property not classified as real property," according to the Comptroller of Maryland's Web site.

Total expenditures for fiscal 2006 are projected at about $1.3 million, about $250,000 more than expenditures for fiscal 2005.

Town officials unanimously passed a motion to keep the homeowner's real property tax rate the same, at 36 cents per $100 of assessed value. This figure is close to the constant yield rate of 35.2 cents, determined by the state, which is the percentage that, when applied to the current base, yields the same local tax revenues as in the previous year.

Rate increases for Emmitsburg residents this year come at a time when the town is $2.7 million in debt, according to Town Clerk Donna Despres.

"That's including current and old stuff," Despres said. "Fifty percent is water and 42 percent is sewer. The other 5 percent is streets, and 3 percent is general."

The town has had considerable water and sewer expenses in recent years, Mayor James Hoover said.

The town went $186,115 over budget in fiscal 2004. The net deficit for the town in fiscal 2004 was $68,715, when town revenues were factored in.

In addition, the town has allocated more money in the fiscal 2006 budget for planning and zoning, streets, recreation and parks, and garbage expenditures than they spent in previous years.

For example, the town plans to spend $207,612 on recreation and parks in fiscal 2006, which is $61,138 more than was spent in fiscal 2004, the last actual amount currently available.

The town plans to set a "multigenerational" trail project in motion this year, according to comments by town officials in a June 13 workshop.

"We have a very high percentage of seniors and I would like to give them the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and not just be shut-ins and go to restaurants," O'Neil said at the workshop.

In addition, the town's fiscal 2006 budget allocates $57,612 more to streets than spent in fiscal 2004. In the coming year, town officials plan to spend $199,500 on streets.

"Problems with uneven sidewalks are becoming an increasing problem," O'Neil said at the June 13 workshop.

Adjacent property owners are responsible for repairing sidewalks, rather than the town, unless the roots of town-owned trees damaged the sidewalk, Hoover said.

Projected planning and zoning costs for fiscal 2006 are $107,650, about $22,000 more than the town spent in fiscal 2004.

Town officials also plan to spend $75,615 more in the coming year on garbage than they spent in fiscal 2004. The $167,402 set aside in the town's fiscal 2006 budget for garbage costs reflects the county landfill's increased tipping fees.

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