City manager Suzanne Ludlow, who will present her budget next week, is in the foreground of this Feb. 2016 photo. Photo by Bill Brown.
GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
The Takoma Park city council took a week off from their regular Wednesday meetings.
Next Wednesday, the council gets a field trip. You can too, if you show up an hour early at 6:30 p.m. There will be a tour of the city library exterior and discussion of the various renovation options. The new (elected last November) council put the brakes on the old council’s decision to move forward with a renovation plan and is now reconsidering previously rejected and new options.
The regular meeting will open at 7:30 p.m., the usual time. The city manager will present her proposed city budget. This will be the big reveal of … [play the Jaws music] the tax rate [play the Psycho music]. In other words – will homeowner’s taxes go up (likely), stay the same (less likely), or go down (hahahahaha).
This is a big deal, and it kicks off an obstacle course of twice-weekly council budget work sessions. If you run into any of the council members, Dear Readers, pat them on the head and say “You poor thing!” Starting Monday, April 11 there will be Monday and Wednesday council meetings through the rest of the month. Everyone (actually, hardly anyone) will be watching to see how the city manager proposes to pay for all the things – like a more expensive library renovation – the council wants.
If YOU have anything to say to the council and city manager about the budget, Dear Readers, you can show up at the Wednesday April 13 meeting. A public hearing is scheduled for that meeting. There are two scheduled back-to-back on Wednesday, April 27. There’s a public hearing on the Constant Yield Tax Rate followed by a public hearing on the budget. The constant yield tax rate is the bit that determines how much taxes homeowners pay.
Watch out for slippery language. Keeping the tax rate the same as last years, or even reducing it would mean a tax raise. The city gets a cut of property taxes. Property taxes are based on the estimated property values, and and property values have gone up this year.
Any tax increase will be on top of a county tax increase. As reported in the Washington Post, the county’s proposed budget would bump the average property tax bill up by 8.7 percent. That’s the biggest hike in eight years. According to the Post the average county home is worth $464,000. That average county homeowner would pay $345 more in property tax. The tax on that average home was typically $3,750, raising to $4,075 if the proposed tax hike passes the county council.
Takoma Park’s property tax would be on top of that. Last year it was $.585 per $100 of a home’s value. On a $464,000 house, the county average as mentioned above, city taxes were around $2714 last year. So a total of $6464 last year in property taxes.
Figure higher property values and higher county and city tax rates this year. We’re not talking about chump-change here.
We don’t mean to seem like we’re proselytizing. What concerns us is that hardly anyone shows up at these hearings, and we’re pretty sure it is because most residents have no idea they are going on, or how it effects them.
It’s not all budget talks through April. To wake everyone up after the budget presentation on Wednesday, the council will discuss the proposed Takoma Junction Redevelopment Process Committee – and how to make appointments to it. This committee will work with the development company NDC, the community and the city to facilitate the process. And to eliminate some of the community complaints, hopes the developer.
Also on April 6, the council has the second (final) vote on the Vacant Properties Registry. The object of this is to create a list of all the city’s vacant houses and buildings so the city can pressure the owners into maintaining, fixing and occupying, renting or selling them.
April 13 there will be a hearing on restricting the use of plastic commercial plastic bags, and a discussion on the library renovations. Also the council will discuss revisions to community grants programs.
Tentatively scheduled for April 20 is a hearing on the Streetscape Manual and a review of options for LED streetlight conversion. If the last discussion was any indication the options are: expensive, really expensive and whoa, that’s expensive!
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