FY17 budget process gets under way
A lot has changed since a year ago when newly appointed City Manager Suzanne Ludlow proposed a budget with a tax rate increase to help fund the second year of a phased-in salary increase for City employees.
Seven months later Kate Stewart was elected Mayor and Peter Kovar and Rizzy Qureshi joined the Council. The new Council continued the previous Council’s interest in economic development and environmental sustainability and added affordable housing, youth issues and improved police/ community relations to the priorities the City government would address.
In keeping with these priorities, two key elements of the City Manager’s proposed FY17 budget are highlighted below.
No change in tax rate
This year, an eight percent increase in the assessable property base will yield just enough revenue to offset the final year of the phased-in increases in employee salaries, bringing them up to the market rates for staff of small municipalities in the region. Some additional revenue increases from State and County sources will allow City staff to be able to address Council priorities while continuing to provide municipal services at current levels.
Ludlow proposes to keep the tax rate at $0.585 per $100 valuation. This adds $846,272 to the expected property tax revenue for the coming fiscal year because of the recent increase in property assessments. On average, the owner of a property now assessed at $400,000 would pay the City of Takoma Park $13 more in property taxes next year than he/she did in the current year.
If the City wished to receive the same amount of property tax revenue next year as it expects to receive this year, the City’s tax rate would need to be reduced to $0.5518 per $100 assessed valuation, the “constant yield tax rate.”
A new neighborhood services division
Ludlow is proposing one new full-time position and an organizational change. The new position is that of an Environmental Code Enforcement Officer. Recent new laws passed by the City Council require a significant amount of outreach and enforcement for them to be effective. These include the Safe Grow pesticide restrictions, polystyrene ban, multifamily and business recycling and a possible plastic bag ban. City laws prohibiting overgrown vegetation and vines growing on trees have been on the books for years, but there has been little capacity for regular enforcement. The new position would coordinate education efforts and oversee enforcement of these laws.
The new position would be part of a new division in the Police Department called the Neighborhood Services Division. The Division would also include the City’s two Property Code Enforcement Officers, currently in the Housing and Community Development Department, and the Police Department’s one full- and one part- time Parking Enforcement Officers. The officers would be cross trained and conduct joint enforcement efforts when needed. They also become part of the community efforts of the Police Department to identify areas that need greater attention (that may have litter, graffiti, or vacant properties) and to continue community outreach with businesses and residents.
The Housing and Community Development Department would focus more on proactive affordable housing and economic development efforts.
The City Manager’s proposed budget will be presented to the City Council on Wednesday, April 6. The Council will consider the details of the budget during special Monday night budget work sessions in April, with votes on May 11 and May 18 on the contents of the budget and the amount of the tax rate. Public Hearings on the budget are set for April 13 and April 27 at 7:30 pm.
The proposed FY17 budget is available at www.takomaparkmd.gov/budget.
- Proposed addition of an Environmental Code Enforcement position to provide education and enforcement of the City’s environmental laws.
- Creation of a Neighborhood Services division in the Police Department, responsible for the enforcement of property codes, environmental laws and parking restrictions.
- Funds for an economic development study and pursuit of redevelopment and investment in the New Hampshire Avenue Corridor, building on the coming of the Purple Line.
- Funds for affordable housing efforts, building on recommendations coming out of February’s Affordable Housing Community Conversation.
- Funds to help advance the City’s education and lobbying efforts related to tax duplication so that Takoma Park taxpayers do not pay twice for services they only receive from the City of Takoma Park.
- Continued work on plans for the renovation and expansion of the Takoma Park Library.
- Significant investment in the ongoing Ethan Allen Gateway Streetscape and Flower Avenue Green Street projects.
- Completion of three park projects: Colby Avenue Park, Sligo Mill Overlook Park and the dog park, if not completed in the current fiscal year.
- Street repair, new sidewalk construction and ADA sidewalk improvements at the full annual commitment level of $500,000 each.
- Continued funding for the City’s match to the State’s Homeowner Tax Credit program for lowerincome homeowners.