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Berlin Town Council debates timing for setting tax rates

By Greg Ellison

(April 1, 2021) In addition to receiving a report from Mayor Zack Tyndall and updates on departmental activities, the Berlin Town Council last Monday mulled procedural steps for setting real property tax rates.

Tyndall said town officials are investigating potential covid-relief funding availability through the American Relief Act.

“We are following that very closely,” he said.

After the town contacted Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tyndall said all indicators are positive.

“Both of those Senator offices have been very forthcoming with information,” he said. “We’re optimistic on that funding.”

Tyndall also highlighted efforts by Berlin Public Works crews to display the Stars and Stripes on a long-neglected flagpole in Stephen Decatur Park.

“For the longest time, there has not been a Maryland or U.S. flag flying on that,” he said.

Tyndall said further flag-related initiatives are also in the works.

“We’re also trying to work on getting a Town of Berlin flag hanging on government buildings and government properties.

In other business, Town Administrator Jeff Fleetwood said a pre-construction meeting was scheduled March 23 with State Highway officials related to the Maryland Route 376 and U.S Route 113 project.

Fleetwood also previewed a retirement celebration for Public Works Superintendent Dave Wheaton set for March 29.

Lastly, Fleetwood said the council is slated to attend a pre-project meeting on April 3 for the rooftop solar apparatus being installed at the Schoolfield Street electric facility.

Economic Development Director Ivy Wells said the deadline for Berlin businesses to apply for covid grant funding was March 19

“We’ve received more than 40 applications,” she said.

Wells said the review process is underway to ascertain grant status for business applicants.

Public Works Superintendent Jimmy Charles, who officially accepted the reins with the departure of Dave Wheaton in March, said beautification work continues as spring weather creeps into the region.

“This week we’re hoping to attack the parks,” he said.

Charles said the work crews have already spruced up the outside area in front of the Berlin Welcome Center and mulched around parking lots.

Following a roughly two-hour discussion that evening surrounding property tax rates for the next fiscal year, Councilman Jay Knerr expressed frustration.

“It truly seems backwards,” he said.

Knerr proposed a motion for subsequent budget cycles to have the proposed tax rate unveiled at the same point the mayor presents a balanced ledger sheet.

“Then we have plenty of time to review it … and analyze it,” he said.

Tyndall noted the proposed procedural change would require a different avenue.

“I believe that would require a change to the town charter,” he said.

Knerr suggested the proposed real property tax rate for the pending fiscal year should have been presented during initial budget discussions on March 8.

The current budget schedule was established by resolution in 2019.

Councilman Dean Burrell agreed that a change was in order.

“I’m not satisfied with what happened here this evening,” he said.