La Plata coun­cil dis­cusses gen­eral bud­get for FY2017

Looks to keep taxes the same

Maryland Independent - - News - By TIFFANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: Tif­fIndyNews

The La Plata Town Coun­cil met dur­ing the month of April to dis­cuss the de­vel­op­ment of the Town’s Fis­cal Year 2017 bud­get in­clud­ing an es­ti­mate of pro­posed rev­enues and fu­ture ex­pen­di­tures for the sin­gle fis­cal year.

On April 19, the town’s FY2017 bud­get de­vel­op­ment gen­eral fund was pre­sented in a Pow­erPoint pre­sen­ta­tion by Town Trea­surer Robert Oliphant. The town coun­cil was pre­sented with the bud­get’s gen­eral fund ex­pen­di­tures, which is a to­tal of $6,847,138.

Gen­eral fund rev­enues in­clude fi­nan­cial re­sources and op­er­at­ing ser­vices of the town prop­erty taxes, li­censes, per­mits, ser­vice charges, in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal rev­enues, ex­pen­di­tures for ad­min­is­tra­tive sup­port ser­vices, law en­force­ment, public works and parks and recre­ation.

“It’s es­sen­tially the same gen­eral bud­get as it was last year,” Oil­phant said.

How­ever, dur­ing the bud­get de­vel­op­ment pre­sen­ta­tion, the coun­cil no­ticed a dif­fer­ence in var­i­ous line items within the bud­get, specif­i­cally fuel pur­chases within cer­tain de­part­ments.

Town Man­ager Daniel Mears ex­plained that some line items, es­pe­cially in fuel pur­chases, were in­cluded in the FY2016 bud­get. How­ever those line items have noth­ing in­cluded for FY2017 be­cause it was only a one time ex­pense for that par­tic­u­lar fis­cal year.

Ac­cord­ing to Oliphant’s bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion to the coun­cil, there is also prior debt pay­ment of $104,000 in­cluded an­nu­ally so the town staff rec­om­mended that the town coun­cil pay off a re­main­ing $1.4 mil­lion bal­ance.

“The in­ter­est on that debt is over 4 per­cent,” Mears said. “Pay­ing that off would save the town ap­prox­i­mately $373,000 over the re­main­ing life of the debt.”

“Rev­enues are still be­low our stated re­quire­ments so the coun­cil has to be dili­gent in set­ting pri­or­i­ties for the fis­cal year be­gin­ning on July 1. Pay­ing off one of our out­stand­ing loans makes sense as it will save the town a con­sid­er­able amount of money in fees and in­ter­est over the life of the loan,” said Mayor Roy G. Hale.

On April 26, the coun­cil met to con­tinue dis­cussing the gen­eral funds in ad­di­tion to the town’s en­ter­prise funds, specif­i­cally san­i­ta­tion and util­ity funds, within the FY2017 bud­get.

Oliphant and Mears also ex­plained that the town is in its sec­ond year of the three year prop­erty tax as­sess­ment cy­cle and the real es­tate prop­erty tax is La Plata’s largest gen­eral fund rev­enue source, rep­re­sent­ing 59 per­cent of new rev­enue. The coun­cil plans to have the real es­tate prop­erty tax rate re­main the same.

Mears said the town has main­tained the tax rate on real prop­erty at $0.32 per $100 of assessed value since 2001, and the bud­get for FY2017 rec­om­mends main­tain­ing that.

“With so many ju­ris­dic­tions in­creas­ing taxes over the years, we are proud that we have been able to hold our rate con­stant since 2001. This ac­com­plish­ment has been very dif­fi­cult at times but it demon­strates that rais­ing taxes is al­ways our last op­tion not our first op­tion. We are united in the in­tent to hold the same rate for the fis­cal year com­menc­ing July 1, 2016. If we re­ceive the tax dif­fer­en­tial from the Charles County Com­mis­sion­ers as re­quested for fis­cal year 2017 of $0.135, the ef­fec­tive tax rate for La Plata res­i­dents will be­come $0.185. A bot­tom line that many com­mu­ni­ties would be hard pressed to match,” Hale said.

“The tax dif­fer­en­tial that the Charles County com­mis­sion­ers fund is where they re­duce our town’s taxes for the ser­vices that the Town of La Plata pro­vides and the county doesn’t have to pro­vide for. Our ef­fec­tive tax rate is less than $0.19 so I think its im­por­tant for ev­ery­one to know that. Re­ally, $0.32 is mod­est look­ing around at other towns through­out the state and we are blessed that the county does rec­og­nize what we con­trib­ute,” said Coun­cil­man Joseph Nor­ris.

The coun­cil mem­bers said they will re­main dili­gent in en­sur­ing that all of the as­so­ci­ated costs of ba­sic ser­vices and sav­ings in util­ity pric­ing is rea­son­able and ap­pli­ca­ble to the high qual­ity of ser­vices that lo­cal res­i­dents re­ceive.

The Town of La Plata will host a public hear­ing about the FY2017 bud­get on Tues­day, May 17. The Town Coun­cil will con­sider adop­tion of the bud­get on Tues­day, May 24.

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