Sarah WhelanPrivate Funding for Public Safety
Date last updated: Wednesday, March 12, 14:36 PST
Md. mayor seeks more law enforcement funds
By Nicole Fuller
ANNAPOLIS — As Annapolis embarks on an ambitious crime-prevention plan, Mayor Ellen O. Moyer has proposed a budget that would boost funding for law-enforcement efforts by more than $1 million.
Her $81 million operating budget would raise the starting salary for a police officer to $43,000, set aside $500,000 for security cameras in high-crime neighborhoods and create an Office of Youth & Community Action.
Though the spending plan for the fiscal year that will begin July 1 is 8 percent larger than this year's, Moyer called it "really tight."
The proposal she unveiled Monday night eliminates grants to nonprofit organizations, which shared $400,000 this year.
Moyer suggested that a 1.5-cent increase in the city's property-tax rate could help curtail funding shortfalls, but she stopped short of including the tax increase in her budget.
"The budget is generous in some areas, not so in others," the mayor said in her seventh State of the City address at Monday night's city council meeting, during which she submitted the budget.
"But it is balanced as the law requires. It addresses the challenges we face in public safety and looks toward sustaining the quality of life that we all desire."
Amid concerns about crime in the state capital, the state, federal and city governments are starting a program that could be used as a model to strengthen identification, tracking and supervision of Annapolis' violent offenders.
As part of the Capital City Safe Streets initiative, Moyer proposed the new Office of Youth & Community Action to spearhead drug-prevention and intervention efforts.
She also said she would raise the $41,000 starting pay for police officers by $2,000 in hopes of filling the more than 20 vacancies in the Annapolis Police Department. With the boost in funding for salaries, benefits and recruiting efforts, law-enforcement funding accounts for $16 million of the proposed budget.
The mayor also proposed a private-public partnership to mentor at-risk youths and hopes to start a campaign to raise a $1 million endowment for it.
Tim Elliott, the city's finance director, said the $6 million spending increase compared with last year results from salary increases for city workers and benefits for retirees, along with the boost for public safety. Last year's budget was $4.5 million higher than the previous year's.
Despite the proposed flat tax rate of 53 cents per $100 of assessed value, rising property assessments mean that most property owners will get higher tax bills. The owner of a $300,000 home would pay $159 more.
Alderman Samuel E. Shropshire, a Ward 7 Democrat, said yesterday that he had not had time to fully review the budget but that even a modest increase in the property tax rate should be "the very last alternative."
"We need to just face the fact that this is going to be a difficult year for the city," Shropshire said. "And certain people are not going to be happy. I do think the mayor has presented us with a very thorough and fair budget."
In coming weeks, the city will schedule hearings with department heads, and the three-member finance committee will review the budget. A public hearing has been set for April 28.
Copyright 2008 The Baltimore Sun
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