The Anne Arundel County Council passed a budget totaling almost $420 million today and cut the property tax rate by 11 cents.
The council cut about $1.7 million from the budget proposed last month by County Executive James Lighthizer, who had proposed a 6-cent cut in the current property tax rate. But the council also came up with $1.5 million in added revenue, which county finance officials attributed to healthy tax receipts in the first four months of this year.
Because the budget was passed late in the day -- with more than 100 amendments -- financial staff members did not have time to precisely calculate total ammounts in many budget categories. But, they said, rising value assessment on property will mean most property owners will pay more in property tax despite the tax rate reduction.
The tax rate, currently $2.68 cents for every $100 in assessed property value, will fall to $2.57. In Annapolis, where residents pay lower county taxes to compensate for taxes they pay to the city, the county tax rate will drop from $1.68 to $1.42.
The council also passed a capital projects budget, but a total dollar amount was not available tonight. The council cut no projects from Lighthizer's proposed budget, which totaled almost $88 million for next year, but delayed several and moved others forward.
Council Chairman Virginia Clagett said council members had made a lowered tax rate a high priority. That it could do so, she said, was "a reflection of the very sound financial picture." Anne Arundel County, she said, "is a healthy place."
The council cut about $500,000 from Lighthizer's proposed $216.8 million school budget while adding 21 teachers, including eight guidance counselors, to the 57 additional teachers the executive sought. Most of the school cuts were made through recalculating such fixed charges as insurance cost, though some reductions were made in administration and instructional equipment costs.
The budget includes a 6 percent pay increase for county employes in conformance with a three-year contract negotiated last year. The average teacher, now earning around $27,450, would receive an additional $1,644 next year.
The council voted to start an $8 million renovation and construction project at Southern Middle School this summer, several months earlier than Lighthizer had proposed.
Lighthizer said he would rather the cuts had not been made, but called it "a good budget" that will allow the county to "carry out all its goals." He praised the council for working in a "judicious and prudent fashion."