Community: Joint Ownership and Shared Togetherness
A few months ago, I was asked what does community mean to me.
The first thing that popped into my mind was to respond with our geographic location – the City of Takoma Park – 2.4 square miles located in the corner of Montgomery County bordered by Washington DC, Prince Georges County, Silver Spring.
But, community is so much more. The word itself is rooted in the Middle French communité. Initially, it meant: “joint ownership.”
Joint ownership. Shared togetherness. That is community.
So what does that mean during a pandemic, and what does community mean for our budget process this year?
We have been working since early April on the FY2021 City Budget. We knew from the first presentation on April 6th that the proposed budget needed to be revised to take into consideration the health crisis, and we have learned much more about the health and economic situation since then.
We are thankful that even in a pandemic, we have had a great deal of feedback and input. The Zoom Council meetings have given people who have never attended or spoken at a Council meeting the opportunity to provide comments. Individual councilmembers have done their own virtual town halls and online surveys. And our terrific City staff led by our City Manager have been working round the clock to provide answers to all of our questions so we can make the best decisions possible in an ever-evolving situation.
Thank you for all the engagement. We have had a very robust discussion this year. And, we needed it. None of us have ever tried to do a budget during a world pandemic with so much changing daily.
We heard a number of differing views on the specifics of the budget, but throughout the discussion, there has been a common commitment to our community and those who call it home.
I have said many times over the last few weeks, as the City, we are the first line of defense for those most impacted during this crisis. And now is the time to act quickly and with sufficient resources, to help more people stay in their homes and keep businesses afloat while we wait and advocate for assistance at the county, state, and federal level. We also know that while this crisis impacts everyone, the magnitude of the impact is not equal, further exposing the racial injustices that we must address as a City.
So with all of this in mind on Monday night the City Council made the following changes to the proposed budget:
- Created a COVID-19 Fund with over $600,000 in resources to enable the City to continue to provide financial support for residents and small businesses ($440,000 for FY2021 and about $194,000 that we are spending this year).
- Cutover a half a million in personnel costs and put a hold on over $300,000 on other personnel costs.
- Kept the same tax rate as last year — 53.97 cents per $100 assessed valuation
- Kept stormwater fee the same.
Continued funding for public safety initiatives such as traffic calming.
- Suspended funds for large public gatherings.
- Put a hold for at least the first quarter of the year $1.3 million dollars of expenditures that will be re-evaluated throughout the year.
In terms of different reserves or funds we can use in the emergency as we learn more about the needs and impacts we have:
- General Contingency Account: $135,000 (to cover unexpected operating expenses)
- Emergency Reserve: $510,000 (for emergency expenditures for the health, safety or welfare of persons or to perform essential government services)
- Housing Reserve: $1,058,294 (as of June 30, 2020) (requires a housing purpose)
- Unassigned Reserve: $1.8million; plus the $1.3million in on-hold projects for a total of over $3million in unassigned reserves.
- Staff is now preparing the final budget documents which Council will vote on May 13th and 20th.
Thank you very much for all the input and collaboration to get us to this point.
Our FY2021 budget reflects our shared togetherness during the greatest challenge we have ever had to face as a community.