budget approved, Council meeting Monday, July town hall

I hope you had a pleasant 4th of July. While it was nice to spend time with family, my thoughts were with the staff at The Capital. They are our friends, family, and voice of our community. I’m tired of these types of tragedies, and will do what I can to build a better world where people come before guns, and civility comes before aggression.

I have a few updates from the last Council meeting where the budget passed, information on Monday night’s Council meeting, and some assorted community notes. Please note that I will be holding my second town hall meeting on July 25th from 6-8 at the Eastport-Annapolis Neck Library.

Updates from previous two Council meetings (download minutes 6-18-18, 6-25-18)

Legislation passed (i.e. 2nd reader)

  • R-21-18 - Recognizing and Remembering Racial Injustice, An Apology - I am proud to be a co-sponsor on this resolution, for the purpose of supporting the Equal Justice Initiative, which seeks to acknowledge and condemn the thousands of lynchings that have occurred in the United States. Here in Anne Arundel County we have had 29, with a number of those happening here in the City. We passed this in the hopes of moving toward a more complete history of race relations, and affirming the City’s commitment to truth, freedom, and equity.
  • R-15-18 passed, which was the Fees Schedule for FY19. What’s of note is that it passed with an amendment proposed by Alderwoman Henson, which I supported, to allow our children take the City busses to school at no charge.
  • R-13-18 passed with amendments - This Resolution adopted the Capital Improvement Program for Fiscal Years 2019-2014. Something to note is that one of the amendments, which passed, took bond money that was already approved for the Main Street rebricking and shifted it to help us pay for roadway paving. If you recall, we were/are seeking to move away from relying on debt/bonds to fund our routine roadway work. Shifting this existing bond money allows us to succeed in our effort to not accrue any additional debt in 2019. We were able to use the Main Street rebricking money because that project is on hold anyway due to the Mayor’s efforts to explore installing a bike lane and outdoor dining areas along that Street.
  • O-17-18 - FY19 budget - The budget finally passed. Instead of a 13 cent (per $100 assessed value) increase, it has been brought down to 8.9 cents. The Mayor and City Finance Committee (Aldermen Arnett, Finlayson, Rodriquez) recommended cuts to reduce the 13 cents to 10.5 cents, which passed. Then myself, along with Aldermen Arnett, Tierney, Henson, and Rodriguez introduced a package of cuts that we passed in a block, bringing the tax increase to 8.5 cents. You can view a summary of our proposed cuts here, but to make a long story short we worked to identify cuts for nearly every department, and relied upon freezing vacant positions, some of which had been vacant for many years. We felt, and continue to feel, that taxpayers alone should not be shouldering the entire burden of getting our City back on secure financial footing. We worked with the Department Directors and City Manager to identify these reductions. However, the Departments did not enjoy this and did not all agree with our proposed reductions. But we felt strongly that everyone must make sacrifices.

Our proposed reductions passed, but then, after hearing from the Fire Department that they could manage with all cuts except for one of the proposed positions to be frozen, we decided to fund that one position. We appreciated them working with us on these reductions. What reduced our cuts even further, however, was an amendment to re-fund all of the positions we just froze in the Police Department. In order to reduce the tax increase, we had to propose reductions in Fire and Police, given that they make up a majority of our budget. The positions we proposed to freeze were either vacant for many years, had no hope of being filled any time soon, or were duplicative administrative positions. These would not have impacted the level of service of the Police since, again,the positions had been vacant for a while and the one officer position we proposed freezing had no chance of being filed. Police Department all over the Country have problems recruiting officers and filling their ranks. Despite this, a majority of our colleagues decided to reverse those reductions, bringing the tax rate increase up from around 8.5 to 8.9. I’d also like to note that we did fund many of the enhancement requests (i.e. additional funding requests) made by both the Fire and Police, though many were also reduced in amount. Additionally, as a part of the new union agreements to be voted on Monday, we will likely be funding take-home vehicles for Police in an effort to stay competitive with surround jurisdictions so we can hopefully fill our ranks soon. Also, I’d like to note that we funded many measures that strive to build this One Annapolis you’ve heard about, that would build a stronger community by ensuring equity and access to services and opportunities. This approach of building community is in my mind the best way to reduce and prevent crime.

My personal amendments that were introduced to restore some cuts to the Office of Environmental Policy were passed. These cuts needed to be reversed because they reduced necessary training and certification funding and associated program funding that is essential for this Office. I also found alternative funding (our Watershed Restoration Fund) for a downtown waste reduction technology to clean up City Dock, and for education associated with the No Discharge Zone (a helpful addition to the associated application going to the EPA).

My last note on the budget is that I feel that those of us who are new to the process have learned quite a bit. I’m confident that next year will go much more smoothly.

  • R-22-18 - Reaffirming how the monies from the Watershed Restoration Fund should be spent - Historically our Watershed Restoration Fund (i.e. stormwater fee) has been raided by previous administrations to help balance the budget. There has been a clear desire in the environmental community to ensure this money is spent on actual restoration projects, and not just on associated staff costs. This resolution simply reminds folks what our code already states. I’ll be revisiting the code language in the future but I wanted to get this out there as we discussed the budget.
  • R-24-18 - Equal protection task force for African-American residents: I am proud to sponsor this Resolution, which commissions this temporary task force to provide the Mayor and City Council with a public forum for studying and preparing reports about the issues of African-American residents of the City of Annapolis.

Information on this Monday’s Council meeting (download)

Public hearings

  • O-26-18 would resolve some procedures outlined in our code that govern how we vote on suspending the rules when passing legislation.
  • O-28-18 - This ordinance would fully implement the Arts and Entertainment District Tax Credit, in particular the property tax credit that apparently wasn’t fully adopted. In light of our budget woes, I’m curious what folks think about this, as it seems it may reduce our revenues.

Legislative Action (finals votes, etc)

  • Collective bargaining agreements - We have a top notch negotiating team and they have negotiated brand new 4-year contracts with our City unions (Police, Fire, AFSCME - DPW & Rec & parks). Employees would get pay increases that are standard for other government employees and needed to keep pace with the rate of inflation. The one exception to this would be Police. Their cost of living increases would be reduced because they would be getting take home vehicles. Take home vehicles, while a new cost to the City, are necessary if we want to stay competitive with surrounding jurisdictions, and if we want to keep our officers from leaving for elsewhere. That said, many of us made it known that we didn’t want to support take home vehicles unless there were incentives, or costs, to those who live outside of the City and outside of the County, in an effort to encourage officers to live where they work and become fully vested in our community. Fortunately, such incentives/costs were negotiated. I need to fully review the agreements/contracts, but I’m inclined to vote in favor given the trust I have in our negotiating team and based on the information I’ve seen thus far.

Community happenings

  • July Town Hall meeting - On July 25th, from 6-8pm at the Eastport Library, I will be holding my second Town Hall meeting. I hope to see you there!
  • National Night Out 2018 - Tuesday, August 7th - National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live. Furthermore, it provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances. Stay tuned for exact locations.
  • The Eastport-Annapolis Neck Library has started lending out fishing gear.

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  • Rob Savidge