For the second time this week, someone on the city council dais reported fielding a call from a county government contact, warning that county funds for the city are about to be slashed even more than previously stated.
Monday April 12, the city manager reported such a warning call. Thursday, April 19, it was the mayor. We suspect the county proposes cuts, alerts the victims, then waits to see which ones bring the most pressure to bear not to make the cuts. Presumably the ax falls the heaviest on the weak ones. Government Darwinism.
The mayor’s call clued him in to county’s plan to deal with its 124 million budget shortfall by cutting tax rebates to municipalities 20%. In Takoma Park, this would mean a reduction of $600,000.
The council and staff gasped. Councilmember Josh Wright quipped, “What’s the process for secession?
The mayor said the city will try to keep the cuts from happening. If not, there will have to be another $600,000 cut from the city budget.
The city budget work sessions continued Thursday night, April 22. The Housing and Community Development Department was up first. The city manager has proposed a $1,303,419 budget for that department which deals with code enforcement, landlord-tenant issues, community development, and affordable housing. That amount is $87,883 less than this year’s.
Sara Daines, the department director, described the cutbacks in employees and services. The council was not happy to hear about it, especially the service reductions. They saw no alternative, however. It was true that services would suffer, Daines said, but she tried to cut unnecessary or outdated items first. For example, the city-printed Survival Guide, a listing of city resources and businesses for residents) is less needed now that people can find that information on the internet, she said. The New Hampshire Corridor revitalization could rely on outside grants, city funding was not necessary.
More Services Cut
Public Works Department followed. The budget for that department is $3,846,485. That is less that this year’s budget, but only by $7,616.
Still, they must reduce or change services. Thanks to a new, larger trash truck they can change from a weekly 5 day pickup schedule to a 4 day one. This will reduce overtime pay. Leaf collection will be a 5 week program rather than a 7 week program. The department will also be cutting back on using temporary labor.
The renovation of the public works facility is the biggest item in its budget, councilmember Josh Wright observed. Braithwaite stressed that the renovation was as minimal as it could be, more minimal than she liked. There are important renovations not being funded – removal of the outdated, underground fuel tanks, for example.
No Fee Change
Stormwater management, a public works program, is budgeted for $501,384. That takes care of storm drains, and other issues related to rain water runoff, including erosion and pollution. The program pays for itself, however, from fees that all city property owners and developers must pay. Those fees will remain the same as last year.