Friday, April 10, 2015

City budget public hearing, resolution on Takoma Junction developer: April 13 at the city council

The city council will hold a public hearing on the FY 2016 budget, Monday, April 13 at 7:00 pm. Your comment is invited, at the hearing in the city auditorium or by e-mail to the city clerk, clerk@takomaparkmd.gov.

City Manager Suzanne Ludlow's proposed budget is online. It includes a 2 cent increase in the property-tax rate, our first increase since 2002. The increase would cost the owner of a $500,000 property $100 per year. It would allow the city to maintain current services, fulfill commitments that include building a dog park, and start a phased pay increase for staff. The city has had only small wage increases since 2010. Our aim this year is to raise employee compensation to a level that is fair, reasonable, and competitive.

To get the essence of the budget quickly, I suggest you read:

- The city manager's budget presentation. It walks you through the budget high points and concludes with a timeline for discussion and budget adoption.

- The 2-page FY 2016 Budget at a Glance table on pages 9-10 of the budget document.

I did suggest one budget modification. The city manager included a "place-holder" management-level position, with duties to include economic development that have not yet been defined. I prefer a different approach. I would not create a new position now. Instead, I would consider creating a position or hiring a consultant, for economic development, after needs and tasks have been defined and discussed publicly. We can make any needed changes via a mid-year budget amendment. The council will take up my suggestion and other possible changes during "reconciliation" in a few weeks.

On Monday evening, in addition --

There will be a reception to celebrate Suzie's appointment as city manager, at 6 pm Monday evening. All are welcome.

And at 8 pm, the council will vote a "Resolution Authorizing the Initiation of Negotiations with Neighborhood Development Company, LLC for the Redevelopment of the City Lot at the Takoma Junction." The resolution and cover memo capture our rationale for our selection of NDC.

The posted file includes an NDC Preliminary Project Timeline with three project phases:

1) A 9-month feasibility period that includes a traffic study and 6-month, overlapping windows for community engagement and schematic architectural design. The outcome of the feasibility period is execution of a development agreement.

2) A projected 18 months for municipal approvals, architecture & permitting.

3) An 18-month construction period.

According to this schedule, you can expect construction to be completed in four years, in 2019. During this same period, starting next year, I expect the city and community will tackle streetscape, pedestrian, traffic, and business improvements for the whole of Takoma Junction.

I'm really excited about Takoma Junction possibilities and about our opportunity to similarly revitalize the New Ave -- New Hampshire Avenue -- and Takoma-Langley Crossroads in the years to come!

Seth, sethg@takomaparkmd.gov, 301-873-8225

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