Salisbury budget holds the line on taxes, fees

Salisbury City Council members on Monday adopted a $64.7 million budget for fiscal 2021 that maintains the current rates for property taxes and water and sewer services.

The property tax rate of 98.32 cents per $100 of assessed value and a personal property tax rate of $2.40 will generate $26.6 million. Taxes account for 66 percent of the city’s revenue.

The budget keeps water and sewer rates the same as the current year even though small rate increases had been planned over several years, Mayor Jake Day said when he unveiled the budget in April. Those rate increases are now on hold.

As a result, revenues from water and sewer services are expected to be $18.1 million in FY21, which is $1 million less than the current year.

The new budget also keeps the city’s landlord licensing fees unchanged.

The city’s cash flow took a bit of a hit as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the start of the statewide stay-home order, city parking lots and the downtown garage have stopped collecting hourly parking fees, although it still collects money for monthly permits. The city also has stopped issuing most parking citations.

The revenue loss has had a significant impact on the Parking Authority enterprise fund. The city is projecting $831,747 in FY21 parking revenues compared to $946,919 this year, which is a $115,172 difference.

The city also could have a cash flow problem if people wait to pay their water and sewer bills. Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order on March 16 prohibits utility shut-offs and late fees, and allows delayed payments during the crisis since many residents have lost income.

Charges for services, such as various permits, licenses, fines and fees, is the second largest revenue source at 17 percent.

Other sources of revenue include $111,542 from the marina, and $3.1 million from intergovernmental sources, including $1.38 million in state highway user revenue, $597,629 in police grants and $260,000 in room taxes.

Departmental appropriations include $1.8 million for the Mayor’s Office and Development Services, $256,804 for the City Council and City Clerk, $745,209 for Finance, $564,303 for Procurement/Municipal Buildings, $355,000 for the City Attorney, $611,061 for Information Technology, $12.9 million for the Police Department, $10.1 million for the Fire Department, $1.1 million for Housing and Community Development, $1.5 million for Infrastructure and Development, $7.2 million in Field Operations and $6.2 in debt service and other uses.

The budget also includes money for capital projects including three new ambulances, five new police vehicles, replacement of the Field Operations building, an overhaul of the city zoning code, street paving, new sidewalks, the rail trail and water and sewer projects.

The new budget will take effect on July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

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