Voting on proposed City budget tomorrow
We do have a Council meeting tomorrow, starting at 10am. The entire day/meeting will be dedicated to discussing amendments to the budget, with a final vote on the budget later in the day. In general, I think this budget is very responsible, in that we are not utilizing all of our bailout money this year (half is being saved for next year), most of the department cuts from last year remain in place, and there is a very slight decrease in the total number of employees. That said, my biggest concern about our budget is the same as last year: we still have a structural deficit that is being driven primarily to staff costs, in particular pensions and salaries. As I’ve mentioned before, our expenditures grew by 12% and our revenue only grew 2% (9% after the bailout). Some of this is from the staff pay increases that were negotiated 3-4 years ago when we made the mistake of shifting to 4-year union contracts, rather than single year. We unfortunately listened to the previous City Manager who recommended this shift, and low and behold it was a complete failure as it prevented us from being able to negotiate a new contract when we had the pandemic crisis. The other large component of expenses are pensions, and in particular the fire/police pensions, which are separate from the rest of the city employees. We eventually need to shift the Fire and Police to the State pension system. Related to this, previous Mayors underfunded the pensions so we are paying catch-up now. The typical City employee is on the State pension system and the City contributes roughly 7% of employee salaries to these pensions, but for fire/police we gave them pensions run by the City and the City contributes roughly 34% of salaries, if my memory serves. All that said, the good news is that our current City Manager has made addressing this deficit his number 1 goal for the next fiscal year.
I do have one budget amendment which would freeze all conversions of contractual staff to civil servant (fully benefitted) staff. My original thought was that a pandemic recovery year is not necessarily the best time to make such conversions while we also have a structural deficit we haven’t yet resolved. However, after I discovered that we actually have slightly (3) less positions than last year, and that at least two of the conversions are grant funded, I’m reconsidering this amendment.
Sidewalks in Ward 7
I am working to get three new sections of sidewalk in Ward 7. I’ve asked the City Manager to start the project initiation process to gather the necessary information to add a sidewalk on Bembe Beach Road from BayWoods down to the Annapolis Sailing School, improving./adding the sidewalk on Edgewood Road in front of or across from the Ellen Moyer park, and adding sidewalk on the west side of Bay Ridge Ave in front of the Shell gas station all the way down to Forest Hills Ave. Once the studies are completed in 4-6 months, the deliverable will be three separate capital project sheets, one for each area, that can be added to the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) either later this year or for the next fiscal year.
Party on the beach! Re-election campaign kick-off
I have been honored to have had the opportunity to serve you for the past 4 years, and I hope you will give me an opportunity to do so for another 4 years. I am holding a re-election kick-off party on Bembe Beach, overlooking the Severn River, at the Annapolis Sailing school on June 24th, complete with food from Main & Market and bossa nova from local musician Jonathan Stone. I hope we can reconnect and catch up at this event (from 6 to 9pm). You can get tickets at https://www.robsavidge.com/campaign_kick_off_21
Stay healthy and stay safe,