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About Town

Chris Patterson

Town faces another cut in income

At the first town meeting in April, Mayor Jim Hoover predicted there will be no tax increase in the coming fiscal year and that he would recommend the cuts necessary to avoid one.

And though some unforeseen circumstances - such as further reductions to the town's revenue stream - have occurred since his original prediction last month, he still plans to present a proposed budget to the town's commissioners that does not include a tax increase.

However, there will be an impact on town services.

For Fiscal year 2010, which begins July 1, 2009, Emmitsburg's Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) will only have about $30,000 instead of the approximately $150,000 it might usually have, Hoover said on April 24.

That is due, in no small way, to a decision by the Frederick County Board of Commissioners on April 23 to cut the tax equity program by $1.6 million. It meant the municipalities in the county would receive a great deal less to manage their respective town budgets.

The tax equity plan requires that tax income received by the county be allocated back, in part, to municipalities so that residents of towns do not pay twice for services the town and county provide.

Other cuts from government sources have also contributed to the dilemma. Income to the town usually comes from Project Open Space (POS) funds and highway user fee money from the state, both of which are significantly reduced this year and will cause substantial reductions in what is normally done around the town, he said.

For example, the town would normally allocate about $50,000 a year to repaving and road repair from the CIP fund. Now Hoover said they will be lucky to have enough money to repave two roads. Everything else will only be patched throughout the year, he said.

And due to the numerous decreases in revenue sources, Hoover announced that he was not recommending a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for town employees this year. And the hours of the Community Pool will be cut this summer

The pool usually opens on the weekends from Memorial Day until after the last day of public school. But this year - to save money - the pool will not open at all until after that last day, which is June 16 for students.

The good news is that other improvements will go on as planned, such as designing and paving trails in Community Park, because the town received POS money previously that was designated for that project.

And the town office is now open late on Tuesday evenings until 7 pm. Services available during the extended hours include bill paying, obtaining fishing permits, making park pavilion reservations and picking up or dropping off zoning permit applications.

But the mayor's main concern is not this year's budget.

"The major cut this year is out of CIP. Because of the economy and already having to cut so much this year, it's obvious 2011 will not be much better and may be much worse and we may see some drastic service cuts. Hopefully things will change for the better," Hoover said.. "The scariest thing is we might ride this storm out but in 2011 if something doesn't change I don't know if we can weather that storm without some drastic cuts or some radical change."

The mayor's proposed fiscal year 2010 budget will be presented to the town commissioners at 7 pm, May 4, at the town hall, but it is at future meetings during which the board will fine tune the budget with public input.

Water conservation recommended

Commissioner Glenn Blanchard told town meeting attendees that the Water committee sent out an insert in the last bill reminding everyone about conservation, which will also save families money.

Commission president Chris Staiger said water used in the home is the town's responsibility and about 250 gallons a day is the average consumption for those purposes. However, the town is not obligated to provide water for outdoor purposes, he said.

Staiger added that watering flowers or a freshly seeded lawn in a new housing community is also not a town priority. Commissioners at the town meeting recommended a rain barrel system for collecting rain water that can be used for those purposes.

Town Manager Dave Haller said it was also important to note that leaving a hose to run for just 30 minutes could run out up to 250 gallons of water, which is equal to the average home's daily use.

Staiger said a miscommunication in his house led to a soaker hose that was left on for days and racked up "quite a bill."

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