Several Bowie City Councilors came ready for battle Tuesday night, loaded with copies of past budgets and stacks of questions as the first budget workshop was conducted.

It was a lengthy evening lasting five hours as the council went through the budget, department by department. City Manager Ricky Tow, going into his second budget season, presented a preliminary budget that totals $19.2 million for utility and general fund operations. The formal budget presentation will be made July 15.

Tow called the proposal “conservative to tight,” but after Tuesday’s initial outing, he anticipates further cuts and adjustments. The only action taken at the workshop was to eliminate the category of employee listed as part-time with benefits, which will save approximately $7,400 a year per employee.

Councilor Arlene Bishop, who returned to the council this past May, was one of the most vocal at the workshop looking through a large stack of past budgets and paperwork for her questions. She clearly was at odds with Councilor Laura Sproles as the two verbally sparred throughout the night.

Bishop asked lots of questions on topics ranging from uniforms and license tests, to overtime costs. At the midway point, Bishop told her fellow council members they need to find $120,000, which is the amount of revenue the budget proposal will lose if the petitions seeking to rescind the Oct. 1 water and sewer rate hikes hold any sway with the city council.

Petitions are being circulating asking for the change in rates and they could be presented to the council next week. However, unless the city opts to rescind the rate increases or conduct an election on the issue, the petitions are merely a show of support to leave the rates at the present level.

When the need to cut that $120,000 was raised, several council members commented together, not necessarily it would be up to the council.

While discussing general fund revenue, Councilor Sproles, who also chairs the city’s Hotel/Motel Tax Board, urged the council to make changes in the dispersal of the HOT funds.

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