No property tax hike in 2012

July 10, 2011

BY KAREN J. RILEY — No one looks forward to opening their annual  property tax bills, but at least residents will know what to expect to see in their next bill.

The Hyattsville City Council adopted a $21.33 million city budget on June 13 that left the city’s current tax rates intact in fiscal year 2012, which begins July 1.

As a result, the real property tax rate will remain at $0.63 per $100 in assessed value, and the personal property tax rate will remain at $1.15 per $100 in assessed value.

Real property taxes are by far the major source of money for the city, making up about 52 percent of all revenues and 72 percent of the total in the city’s general fund. Although housing values aren’t going up, new properties are being added thanks to Arts District construction. As a result, the city is expected to collect $11.38 million in real property taxes this fiscal year, up from $10.88 million in fiscal year 2011.

The city’s relatively lean 2012 budget features $14.47 million for day-to-day operating expenses, including $6.4 million to run the city’s police department and $4 million for public works (services such as trash pickup and street maintenance).

This was the first year that city staff has developed a detailed five-year capital improvement plan. The proposed plan, unveiled in April by City Administrator Gregory Rose, calls for $13.6 million in expenditures 2012 through 2016, including $6.2 million in 2012 with funding from bond issues, general fund transfers, leases and state grants.

The 2012 budget largely maintains that vision, but adds, among other things: a 1 percent cost-of-living increase for city employees; the new position of Senior Services Coordinator; a parking-enforcement supervisor; and a police officer to run the speed-camera program. Revenue collected from the program is supposed to cover the officer’s salary and expenses.

Despite weak economic times, several big-ticket construction projects are scheduled for this fiscal year, including continuation of the city’s five-year road paving program, reconstruction of Crittenden Street and 40th Place, long-term improvements for City Hall and 3505 Hamilton Street, and renovation of a soccer field at Magruder Park.

According to the capital improvement plan, the city has had a longstanding goal of renovating the park’s playing fields and surfaces. The city commissioned a $100,000 design study in fiscal year 2011 for field renovation, but the results aren’t available yet. A total of $325,000 has been set aside in fiscal year 2012 for renovation of one soccer field – including the possible conversion of the field from grass to artificial turf.