The budget lives! Like a newly emerged butterfly it floats and flits about the garden, as the council stalks it with net and pin. As fully formed as it is, it is not yet passed into law and still – technically – subject to comment and change. The council will pin it down in upcoming votes, though as far as they are concerned, it is a done deal, ready to be ethered and stuck in the display cabinet.
As we noted last week the council squeezed some expenditures out of the city manager’s budget, reducing the tax rate raise on homeowners. They even squeezed some more out since the Budget Reconciliation session May 7. What had been a roughly 9% raise is now roughly a 5% raise.
This is the first time in Your Gilbert’s long but spongy memory that the council has turned so fiscally conservative and become involved in scrutinizing the budget in such detail. Quite a contrast to last year when Dan Robinson tried to do this very thing and the rest of the council reacted as though he’d passed gas. Councilmember Wright particularly took him to task to name specific areas he would cut.
This year, Wright was finding areas himself – he was the one who brought up the reserve funds. These are funds that are held in reserve in case of emergencies or the need to replace expensive equipment. Each year the budget includes a little extra tax revenue to tuckinto these funds, and Wright thought perhaps this year the city could forego that.
Ward 4 representative Terry Seamens was the council’s most frugally minded member this year. He was outvoted in his efforts at to cut or curtail next year’s expenditures for the Public Works Department renovations, “gateway signage,” the city newsletter, and the “Takoma Park Survival Guide,” among other suggestions.
He objected to the city subsidizing the Survival Guide, a fund-raising device for a local nursery school, because it is also funded by advertising. Seamens felt this was unfair to other local publications (i.e. The Takoma/Silver Spring Voice, home of granolapark) which compete for that advertising money but are not also subsidized by the city. The Voice, he noted, is experiencing considerably harder times than the nursery school in the current economy.
Speaking of Advertising
Yes, Dear Readers, if you support the Voice and granolapark, please come to the party next Monday May 18 from 6-9pm, at Takoma Park’s new pizza joint, Roscoe’s!
It will feature Roscoe’s brick oven pizza, live local music, and Jamie Raskin and others speaking on the importance of a local, independent press.
$50 to join the party. $100 to join the Host committee. Go here and contribute now to get your name on the list at the door.
Your Gilbert will send a high-ranking member of our office staff to press the flesh of any granolapark fans who turn up. We would attend personally, but we much prefer to drink alone.
The pool people (a frightening bunch – all of them maniacally cheerful) said at the May 11th city council meeting that they’ve winnowed down their own budget, and that thanks to the $10,000 the city gave them, it looks like the county will keep them afloat, so to speak.
Oddly, one of the members of the Health Services Impact Committee felt moved to address the council May 11th as it perfunctorily voted to accept the report that committee submitted back in February. He kept backing and filling – saying that he supported the work and conclusions of the report, but he wasn’t entirely comfortable with one point, though he supported it, really, except he didn’t, but just a little. He didn’t support the call for the city to fund some of the aspects of the plan.
Your Gilbert recalls the dramatic moment when that committee was presenting its ambitious report and the words “city funding” came up, The council’s faces darkened, they all sat back in their chairs with arms folded, and the Mayor stepped on the hidden switch behind the desk. The floor opened and the committee fell screaming into the sharp petals of the ravenous, man-eating azaleas in the deep pit below the city council chambers.
Terry Seamens was the lone vote last Monday against pay raises for city employees, saying that in the wake of a tax rate raise (despite the efforts to reduce it), and in them midst of the hard economic times, he couldn’t see how it was justified this year.
The pay increases are part of a “market rate adjustment.” A study funded by the city last year showed that while lower level city employees earned more than others working in similar jobs for similar-sized cities, the city’s higher level employees earned less than their contemporaries. It was recommended that the city bump up their salaries to keep them happy and to keep them from wandering away.
Ward 6 councilmember Doug Barry resigned his seat for “personal reasons”, effective at the end of May this year. He will be moving to Washington, DC. It is too close to November elections to hold a special ballot, so the council will appoint a replacement.
Barry is an articulate ,efficient, and dedicated councilmember whose special interests include the development of the New Hampshire Avenue corridor and housing code enforcement. During the council comment section of many city council meetings he typically makes playful announcements about often-ignored parts of the housing code.