Fielder presented the FY 2015 budget proposal before the Bel Air Board of Commissioners at the town meeting on Monday, noting that it represents an increase from last year's budget.
The 2014 budget was $15,874,905. This year's proposed budget is $15,967,773, an increase of one-half percent.
The increase was possible due to a reduction in expenditures from the department of budget submittals of $163,673 (a 1.3-percent reduction) and a slight revenue increase, Fielder said.
Even so, the tax rate remains unchanged, as it has since 2004, Fielder said: $0.50 per $100 of assessed value for real property and $1.16 for every $100 of assessed value for personal property. The real estate property base is $1,342,535, a slight increase over fiscal year 2014, Fielder said.
Among the highlights of the budget proposal, Fielder mentioned the following:
- Approximately $542,045 allocated for parking, most of it for resurfacing the Bond Street parking lot
- Midnight shift increase for police department
- Courthouse Square/Courtland Street improvement projects
- Nearly $440,000 in grant funding for the Armory renovation project
- Five street milling and resurfacing projects
- Replacing three police vehicles plus a 15-year-old motor backhoe and a dump truck for public works
- An 8-cent-per-1,000-gallon rate increase for water/sewer (or 1.5-percent), effective July 1
- A $255,000 payoff of Bel Air High School debt to reduce town's debt service
- A "well-deserved merit increase for all" Bel Air employees, representing the first merit increase in five years and first increase in six years for department heads, according to Fielder. The increase totals $239,905. He noted that salaries represent 63.8 percent of the town's budget, which is below national standards.
- Level funding for community organizations
- Stormwater management
- Start of comprehensive plan
"The fiscal state of the town is strong," Fielder said, "and I think there's a lot of pride you can take in the previous administrator's work and the board that preceded this board."A public hearing on the budget proposal will take place at 7:30 p.m. on April 21 at the Town Hall, 39 N. Hickory Avenue, in Bel Air.