Rockville City Manager Larry N. Blick has proposed a 5 percent increase in the city's operating budget, which would bring it to $25.6 million in the fiscal year starting in July, and a 1-cent drop in the current property tax rate of 88 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Blick also has proposed a $36 million, six-year capital improvements budget, which includes $9.1 million for projects to be funded in the fiscal year.

While an 87-cent tax rate would be the lowest level since 1972, the average residential assessment is expected to increase by nearly $23 a year, Blick said.

Blick said that the owner of a $105,000 house, the city's average, can expect to pay $22.88 more in property taxes and service charges next year. Of that, $15.08 would result from higher assessments and $7.80 would reflect higher refuse collection charges, he said.

The proposed budget, which has yet to be approved by the City Council, calls for "only minor new programs or program improvements," Blick said.

Among the proposed expenditures are $60,000 for development of a plan to direct growth along heavily congested Rockville Pike and $30,000 for hiring two more officers for the city's police force.

Capital improvement projects proposed for the coming year include $2.3 million for a storm water and recreational lake on the 200-acre Westmont property, which will be developed into a major office-and-industrial park, and $2.3 million for reconstruction and widening of Southlawn Lane, between Horners Lane and Gude Drive.

Public hearings on the proposed budgets will be held at 8 p.m. May 20 and May 21 in the council chamber of City Hall, Maryland Avenue at Vinson Street.