Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Takoma Park city budget reconciliation -- outcome

The following is a short report for constituents on the outcome of Takoma Park city FY16 budget reconciliation. Reconciliation is the process by which the council decides on additions to, and subtractions from, the city manager's proposed budget.

The council agreed, Monday night, to raise the property tax rate by 1.5 cents. The city manager had proposed 2 cents.

The tax-rate increase is necessary because we need to bring staff salaries back to competitive levels, which we'll do over the course of the next three years and in order to meet city service priorities. Fortunately, we did identify revenue that wasn't included in the proposed budget: $175,000 in Community Parks and Playgrounds funds and $92,378 in additional Maryland state Highway User Revenue. Further, we are drawing on our unrestricted general fund reserves, in order to keep the tax increase down, and this year, we will put an extra $100,000 toward the city's unfunded police-pension liability, beyond the yearly payment recommended by our actuary.

The council agreed Monday evening, by a 4-3 vote, to include $200,000 in library design funding in the FY16 budget. The council will decide which of the three options put forward by the consultant (Lukmire Partnership) after discussions starting in June, and we may direct that the design work in elements that aren't in the chosen option. Actual construction work would start in FY17, which starts July 1, 2016. We will have to pay for the project -- $3-4 million -- by borrowing money, by issuing a bond. We may be able to get the state to cover some of the cost.

The city council put an extra $19 thousand into the Lunch & Learn program, organized by Councilmember Jarrett Smith, making the city's total FY16 contribution $25 thousand, matched by $45 thousand from Adventist Community Services. We will put an extra $30 thousand into the MANUP youth mentoring program, $30 thousand for more-durable crosswalks along Maple Avenue between Philadelphia Avenue and Sligo Creek, and $10 thousand toward consulting on steps to improve police-community relations.

The budget includes funds to provide additional, grant assistance to community organizations: $165 thousand for large grants and $15 thousand for mini-grants.

We will not create a proposed new management position. Instead, we will evaluate resources needed to promote economic development, after a new deputy city manager is in place. (The DCM search opened yesterday.) We will not fund the start of a proposed city-boundary survey, and we will make modest city TV cuts, in contractor use, that I hope we can enlarge in a process of evaluating city TV coverage beyond core city events.

The budget and tax rate will be officially enact via votes scheduled for May 11 and May 18. I don't expect significant changes, so long as there are no surprises that affect the city in Montgomery County's enacted FY16 budget.

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