Saturday, April 26, 2014

City tax rates & the FY15 budget: Hearings Monday

The city council will hold public hearings on Monday, April 28, starting at 7 pm, seeking comment on the city's FY15 property-tax rate and budget. Later in the meeting, the council will discuss changes to the city manager's proposed FY15 budget, a process called "reconciliation."

The meeting agenda is posted on the city Web site.

City Manager Brian Kenner proposes to leave the property-tax rate, .57, unchanged. That's $0.57 per $100 taxable assessed value. For almost all of us, an unchanged rate will mean paying the same city property taxes this year as last year, since few Takoma Park properties were reassessed given that we're in the middle of the three-year assessment cycle.

Under Maryland law, any property-tax rate above the constant-yield rate is considered a tax increase. The FY15 constant-yield rate, which would produce the same dollar amount in FY15 as was generated in FY14, is $0.564. Retaining the .57 rate, which I favor, would yield $118,000 in additional tax revenue.

But we need to hear from you, hence the Monday hearings, on both the tax rate and on the budget itself.

The city manager's proposed budget largely maintains city services at current-year levels. Higher personnel costs due to benefits increases (for instance, health-care costs) are offset by certain additional, non-tax revenues. Yes, it includes initial funding for dog-park development.

Council members have proposed additional spending as listed in a document that's online. Requestor's initials are : BW = Bruce Williams; FS = Fred Schultz; TM = Tim Male; TS = Terry Seamens; JS = Jarrett Smith; KS = Kate Stewart. I have not requested any additional FY15 spending myself, and I'm inclined to support the staff recommendations, except item #1, which would fund a Commemorations Commission, $10,000. Historic Takoma, the Takoma Foundation, the Recreation Committee, and community members do a fine advocacy job for community contributors who deserve recognition so I question the need for a new commission and for this expenditure. I'm willing to put additional money into a dog park, college-prep mentoring, support for a summer camp targeting kids from moderate-income families, and a visioning study for the county-owned New Hampshire Avenue recreation center.

Please testify at the April 28, 7 pm hearings, or send your comment to the council via clerk@takomaparkmd.gov or to me at sethg@takomaparkmd.gov. And by the way, my next Ward 1 drop-in office time will be Tuesday, May 13, 5-6 pm, and after that, Wednesday, May 28, 8-9 am, at 7006 Carroll Ave.

Thanks!

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