By Sue Miklovic, wwwtheNBXpress.com
The turnout of citizens at the first Public Meeting for the proposed half percent (0.5%) income tax increase for the November 2, 2021 general election was quite disappointing to me, and most likely to our local Council members and administrators. They were on hand to answer questions and share information on the need for the increase. The meeting was last Tuesday, June 1st at the North Baltimore Public Library.
It’s been almost 40 years since the original 1% income tax levy began being collected on January 1, 1982, with the revenue being the primary source for the Village’s non-utility operations and services.
Here are some of the things I learned by attending the meeting, while trying to educate myself on why the village needs the increase to better serve the citizens.
~It is anticipated the half percent increase will generate approximately $550,000 each year
~A breakdown of where the proposed additional income tax funds would be budgeted include
Police Department -$225,000
Emergency medical services-$70,000
Park and cemetery-$35,000
Capital outlay-$50,000 (cruisers, snowplows, ambulances, fire trucks, etc)
~Total $550,000- based on 2020 collections
~The Police Department funds are needed to cover increased expenses in the Police Department which are a result of increased criminal activity, increased severity of the criminal activity, and the safety of our police officers. To handle this activity and ensure the safety of our officers and citizens, the funds will be used to cover additional hours for police officers
~The EMS currently provides 24 hour coverage / seven days a week with an average response time of seven minutes per run. This coverage provides service for over 700 runs per year. This coverage was previously provided by all part time staff. This method is no longer viable as the part- time pool of EMT’s has all but disappeared.
~Park and Cemetery– this tax will provide $35,000 per year for upkeep, repairs, and improvements to the park and cemeteries. This could include cemetery paving, grave repairs, future expansion, and general maintenance and equipment. It could also include additional playground equipment, exercise equipment, future expansion, and other improvements to our community park as well as ongoing maintenance.
~Streets-The council members are all in agreement that the condition of the streets in the village is not very good. Great progress on Main Street and a few other side streets has been made, however the village has to save money for a number of years with little repairs, to be able to complete these projects. Street projects are extremely expensive. The money from the income tax increase dedicated to streets will be around $170,000 per year.
~Capital outlay- This levy will provide $50,000 per year to cover equipment replacement in the coming years including ambulances, dump trucks, snowplows, police cruisers, pickup trucks, and other related types of equipment. These need to be planned for and saved for.
~Money that is collected each month for water bills can only be spent on water related expenses, for example: replacement of broken water lines, wastewater treatment, water tower construction, treatment of the water, water- related debt retirement, etc.
Heard from Village Council members:
“It is anticipated to cost $1.2 million to Mill and pave Main St from Walnut St. to Quarry Rd. This project is currently on the list of proposed upgrades.”
“It is anticipated to cost $1.2 million to rebuild E Broadway from Tarr St. to Rudolph Rd. This project is also currently on the list of necessary upgrades.”
“There are multiple water line and water repair projects on the horizon”
“The Fire Department has often raised the money for special equipment through their own fund-raising efforts such as their current project, “Jaws of Life”
“ We are concerned everyday with the safety and protection of our safety service personnel-Police, EMS, and Fire Department”
“We have good people, who are always looking for ways to get what we need”
If approved by voters, the additional half percent would be imposed beginning January 1, 2022. I was really surprised to learn that only 30% of the total income tax currently being collected is provided by residents of North Baltimore. I didn’t realize so many people from out of town are employed here, and contribute so much to the total collected. (I guess I need to be better educated on how things operate in my hometown)
**A second public information meeting is currently scheduled for Tuesday July 6th, 2021. The location is still to be determined. MARK THE DATE ON YOUR CALENDAR NOW. **