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No fee increases in Rock Hall's FY 2021 budget

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ROCK HALL — With no real estate tax rate increase or utility rate increase for the upcoming fiscal year, which goes into effect July 1, the Rock Hall mayor and council unanimously approved the town’s fiscal year 2021 budget in a meeting June 10.

Mayor Dawn Jacobs said the general fund is budgeted with a revenue of $1.1 million. The utility fund revenue is unchanged from last year’s at $1.02 million. The fund balance within the general fund has been reduced from 5.9% to 4.9%. The utility fund has been reduced from 4.8% to 2.9%.

Last year’s property tax rate of $0.34 per $100 of assessed value will continue this year.

Vice Mayor Beth Andrews said because the town’s fund balance is so low, the council may need to explore the option of raising its rates.

“I think that as we go into the year, if we see that we are going to have significant expenses we have to open to the possibility of increasing rates again to bring in additional revenue,” Andrews said. “I mean it’s the only thing we can do, but I don’t think I would want to do it right now.”

Jacobs said considering the ongoing coronavirus pandemic’s fiscal impact for businesses and families, “now is not a good time” to raise rates. Andrews agreed saying “never is a good time, but it could come to that.”

Explaining increases within the general fund revenue from what was presented on the town’s website, Jacobs said the town received $2,000 in additional funding through a Critical Areas grant. The town also received a notice from the Maryland State Highway Administration that tax revenue is estimated at $86,552 from the town’s estimate of $75,000.

Jacobs noted state income tax has been standing flat in previous budgets while state highway tax is down 8% this year versus last year saying those are the “significant budget over budget changes.”

Jacobs said all transportation related advertising and fare revenue has been removed from the budget because the town is no longer offering its tram system due to COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing guidelines.

Speaking to the expenses portion of the budget, Jacobs said the council again this year opted against being compensated. The budget does reflect a compensation adjustment for town employees.

Jacob said within this year’s utility budget, there is a $14,000 reduction as compared to last year’s budget, which included hookup fees for Haven Harbour South Marina. Jacobs said there is $5,000 budgeted for water connection fees this year.

Within expenses — under the administration line item of the utility fund — Jacobs said there is $9,600 reduction due to accounting and equipment. Jacobs said the town will be able to upgrade its software as part of the water meter upgrade project resulting in a reduced budget line item.

The FY2021 sewer maintenance line item was increased by $10,000 for total of $60,000. Jacobs said, in last fiscal year’s budget, sewer maintenance took the “biggest hit” due to state Route 20 breakdown necessitating the FY2021 increase.

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