This past Monday we had a 14-hour Council meeting focused primarily on discussing and voting on budget amendments. Out of about 16 amendments, only a handful passed, but were deemed significant and thus require another public hearing. In short, the vote to reduce your taxes failed (I voted in favor), the Unions said no to making any sacrifices this year, and we had to find money elsewhere to balance the budget.
While I did vote to reduce the tax rate to the constant yield (i.e. reduce your taxes), that amendment did not pass (myself, Arnett, and Paone were “ayes”). I felt it was not right to ask the tax-payers to make a sacrifice by paying pay more in taxes, when the employee Unions refused to make any sacrifice themselves. Instead, we were held to their previously negotiated contracts, costing us around $1.3 million for their COLA alone (nearly $3 million if you factor in their step increases). I think it’s unfortunate the Unions wouldn’t even agree to the Mayor’s reasonable compromise to put off their COLA for 6 months, as I think granting them what is essentially 3 raises in one year (COLA, step increases for some, hazard pay for some) is quite unfair give that so many of you are out of work. Regardless, since the Unions refused, and my amendment to freeze salaries on our non-represented employees failed (would have saved us over $1 million), we had to amend the budget to find the remaining savings elsewhere. We did this by reducing turnover, which is essentially a limited hiring freeze as most of the vacant positions won’t be able to be filled. The majority of the vacant positions, $1,800,000, are in public safety, mostly in the Police Department. We voted to not fill $1,200,000 worth of those positions. That withheld spending will bring the budget into balance. The added benefit to doing this is that it allows us to “defund” some of the vacant Police positions, allowing us to do some limited restructuring with that Department in the future.
The final budget vote will be tomorrow. At the moment I’m not entirely sure how I’ll vote on it., though I'm leaning towards voting "NO". As I’ve mentioned I’m not happy with the fact that the Unions have refused to make any sacrifice during these trying times and that your taxes will be going up to pay for their raises. I also feel this budget doesn’t address the long-standing structural imbalance between our revenues and our expenditures. Our revenues are only growing at around 3% a year, yet our staff costs are growing at 9%. We’ve had our Financial Advisory Commission recommend we address this as well. There seems to be interest on the Council to restructure our budget process to ensure we can get these issues addressed for next year. Hopefully you will see that legislation over the next few months.
This is the time for you to express your opinion on the budget, albeit very late in the process, by sending comments to https://www.annapolis.gov/1680/Public-Testimony.
Local Police Reform
Over the next few weeks, you will see more legislation from the Council responding to the police violence we see nationwide, including the proposal I’ve mentioned before to scrap our armored truck. I’ll speak more to this in the future, but what I’ll say for now is that while overall our local APD has been very responsible and active in our communities, we also have had our share of issues over the years, and I’d like to see local reforms that will prevent the tragedies we have seen happen nationally with the killing of George Floyd. We can and must do better.
Take care everyone, and stay well,
Next Council meeting - 6/15/20 (agenda)
This Council meeting is starting at 7pm and will be televised on local cable, Facebook, and the City website (www.annapolis.gov). Due to COVID-19, our meetings are now being held virtually. http://www.youtube.com/CityofAnnapolis http://www.facebook.com/CityofAnnapolis
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 firstname.lastname@example.org at least five days prior to the meeting date to request assistance.
If you would like to submit public testimony, we have included a new link allowing written testimony to be submitted into the recorded minutes of the meeting. Submit written testimony: http://www.annapolis.gov/testimony.