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Commissioners consider raising property, water and sewer taxes

James Rada, Jr.
Thurmont Dispatch

(5/17) Though the draft fiscal year 2008 budget for the town of Thurmont can be balanced without raising taxes, the commissioners may increase the rate to try and create a rainy day fund for the town.

Mayor Martin Burns who prepares the budget with input from town staff worries that unforeseen costs could break the town’s budget. One such possible budget breaker would be if the town has to bear the entire costs of a $9 million lawsuit brought against the town by residents who had their basements flooded with sewage in 2003.

“After being in court for the week, I do not deem it appropriate that we cripple ourselves in how we run the town,” Burns said.

The draft budget shows just over $3 million in revenues and just over $2.9 million in expenditures. That leaves the town with a $71,950 cushion that Burns wants to see increase to over $100,000.

To accomplish this, Burns suggested advertising the possibility that the town was going to increase the rate to 30 cents per $100 of assessed value or a 3.5-cent increase. Advertising a possible 30 cent rate for the public hearing does not mean the commissioners would increase the rate to that amount, but it would serve as the maximum amount that the rate could be raised this year. Each one cent increase in the tax rate raises an additional $46,888 for the town.

Burns told the commissioners that the key question was, “Do we want to go with a shoestring budget this year?”

The commissioners decided they would advertise a possibility that the rate could be increased to 28 cents.

Though residents have seen substantial rate increases in their electric rates this past year, the electric utility budget is just about breaking even. The draft budget shows a $24,050 surplus in an $8.9 million budget.

The town has a $2.4 million general operating budget that has an $81,917 surplus projected.

The sewer and water budgets aren’t as lucky. Both budgets show a projected deficit for next year on both the operating and capital sides.

The sewer budget shows a $46,400 deficit in part because the town is beginning to pay on its $1.6 million loan for the first phase of sewer repairs and Burns wants to fund the engineering for the second phase. The capital budget shows a $1.2-million deficit. Together, it would take a $2-$3 rate increase to balance the sewer budget.

“We fund the next phase in advance now so next year when it’s time for grants, we’re funded and ready to go,” Burns said.

The water budget projects a $67,700 deficit on the operating side and a $317,324 deficit on the capital side. A $2.60 to $3 rate increase would be needed to balance the water budget.

While cautioning he was not promoting large-scale growth, Burns said, “A little bit of moderate growth brings in a tremendous amount of revenues. … What you’re seeing (in the budget) is the negative impact of little growth

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