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,
Next Council meeting – 6/7/21 (agenda)
This Council meeting is starting at 7pm and will be televised on local cable, Facebook, and the City website (www.annapolis.gov). http://www.youtube.com/CityofAnnapolis http://www.facebook.com/CityofAnnapolis
This meeting is open to the public, and you are allowed to provide live testimony, but only if you have proof of vaccination.
Anyone needing reasonable accommodation to be able to participate in a public meeting held by the City of Annapolis should contact Regina Watkins-Eldridge at 410.263.7942, by MD Relay (711), or by email at [email protected] at least five days prior to the meeting date to request assistance.
If you are unable to attend, I believe you can still submit public testimony at http://www.annapolis.gov/testimony.
There are a few supplemental allocations on the consent calendar. One has to deal with an insurance claim, another is allocating grant money, and two are allocating developer money that will pay for traffic studies.
- ID-110-21 – This is a public notice that the budget, as proposed by the administration, is not increasing the tax rate but the tax yield will be increasing.
Legislation being introduced on First Reader
Nothing is being introduced at this meeting as it is dedicated to budget deliberations.
Legislation on second reader (i.e. final vote)
- O-10-21 - Annual Budget and Appropriation and Property Tax Levy – This is the main fiscal year 21 budget ordinance. There are a number of amendments up for discussion. You can find them all at the link provided. I am inclined to support this year’s budget, pending input from you and also depending on what amendments get passed. As I indicated earlier, I think this is a relatively responsible budget. It paces our use of the recovery/relief funds, reduces our total employees ever so slightly, and funds some key capital projects. Additionally, it does not include an increase in the tax rate, though, you may see a raise in your taxes due to property values increasing.
- R-12-21 - Position Classifications and Pay Plan - For the purpose of approving the Fiscal Year 2022 position classifications and pay plan; and specifying an effective date. This would add 4 positions to the civil service (i.e. converting them from contractual to full-time-equivalent employees); however, the total number of employees actually decreases by 3, if my calculations are correct, compared to last fiscal year. It would also give employees a 2-3% COLA (cost of living allowance). However, this was negotiated with the previous union contract 3 years ago and there is nothing the City can legally do to alter it at this point. Pending any input from you, I’m inclined to support this.
- R-13-21 - Fiscal Year 2022 Fees Schedule - For the purpose of specifying fees that will be charged for the use of City services for Fiscal Year 2022; and providing an effective date. There is one amendment that is coming from Planning & Zoning that contains a number of fee increases. This is a new amendment, so I’ll await an explanation from them prior to determining my vote, but I am inclined to support it if it reflects an increased cost of providing their services. There are other fee increases proposed, which includes an increase in the refuse and watershed funds. The former is being increase due to costs going up given the recent bids, and the latter is raising overall due to our expected future expenditures to meet the federal pollution reduction targets.
- R-14-21 - Fiscal Year 2022 Fines Schedule - For the purpose of specifying fines that will be charged for Fiscal Year 2022; and providing an effective date. There are five amendments to increase some of the fines. I’ll await the discussion and your input, but I am inclined to support them.