Hearings on foam ban and budget/tax increase

There's a lot to discuss this week. On Monday we have the second public hearing on the proposed FY19 budget and the associated tax increase, as well as a hearing on my proposed ordinance that would prohibit the sale of single-use polystyrene foam (think foam takeout containers and cups). We also have a One Annapolis meeting on Wednesday that I will give you information about.

Next Council meeting (download agenda)

Public hearings

  • You will have a second opportunity to testify on the proposed FY19 budget and the associated tax increase. As an update from last week’s newsletter, the Council’s Finance Committee has released their recommendations. Between their work and the new City Manager’s efforts, the proposed tax increase has been lowered from a $0.13 increase (per $100 of assessed value) to a $0.10 increase. This improvement is due to the City Manager finding additional revenue and because of about $1,000,000 worth of reductions that the finance committee recommended. The finance committee’s recommendations will be voted on by the City Council. While I do think that this is movement in the right direction, it is not enough, and I do not agree with how all of the cuts were made. For example, all of the enhancements (budget additions) requested by the Office of Environmental Policy were denied, including money that would go towards removing hazardous trees, which represent a public safety issue, and money that would go towards supporting our application to the EPA to designate our waterways as No Discharge Zones (i.e. no discharging human waste into our waterways). If we make cuts, they need to be more surgical than this.

The tax increase, even at $0.10 is still too high for my tastes. As I’ve indicated before, I don’t think we can avoid any tax increase, as we catch up with funding our historically underfunded pensions, post-retirement benefits, and our mounting debt payments. However, I continue to maintain that the entire burden of getting ourselves on secure financial footing should not be entirely on the backs of the taxpayers. In my view, the Departments need to submit hypothetical reductions that we as a Council can evaluate, and can share with you, to determine what if any services can or should be reduced to help us avoid such a large tax increase. I’ll also be looking at creating development impact fees to ensure development pays the way for any expansion of our infrastructure needs, and to increasing fines and fees where appropriate.

*Tentative* - the Finance Committee, along with the Mayor are planning to hold a meeting at Maryland Hall to present and discuss with you the proposed fiscal 2019 Budget and Capital Improvement Projects. The meeting will be on 30 May at 7 PM. We plan a formal, but short presentation and then take your questions and hear your opinions.

  • Public hearing on the Polystyrene Foam ban O-22-18  (sponsored by myself, the Mayor, and Alderwoman Henson) - This is a sister ordinance to the County bill introduced by County Councilman Trumbauer, and will prohibit the use and sale of single-use Polystyrene foam products by food service businesses. This would include foam take-out containers and cups. Such policies have been successfully implemented by Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Baltimore City, and Washington DC. The ban would not take effect until September 2019, giving establishments plenty of time to transition to new materials. Fortunately, there is virtually no cost differential between equivalent plastic or paper products. The County’s Health Department will enforce this through their regular inspections of such facilities. The reason for this ban is because polystyrene foam is not recyclable in Anne Arundel County, it takes up valuable space in our landfills, it never biodegrades so breaks into smaller pieces and accumulates in our ecosystem, presenting a danger to our Bay.

Final votes

  • There will be a final vote on Equal protection task force R-18-18 (sponsored by myself and others)  - This resolution will establish a temporary advisory task force to provide the Mayor and City Council with a public forum for studying and preparing reports about the issues faced by foreign-born residents of the City. I plan to vote in support of this, pending any comments from you.
  • There is a final vote on R-17-18, the City’s Cultural Resources Hazard Mitigation Plan. This plan details what steps we can and should be taking to protect our cultural resources in the historic district. This is an essential document and step in our preparations for sea-level rise associated with climate change. I plan to vote in support of this, pending any comment form you.  

Community updates

  • “One Annapolis” community engagement launch. This is the first community engagement meeting where the residents of Annapolis will learn about City services, special events, job opportunities, summer camps for children, and more. Translation, childcare, transportation, music, prizes, and food will be provided. Wednesday, May 23, from 5-8 p.m. at the Pip Moyer Recreation Center at 273 Hilltop Lane, Annapolis, MD 21403.
  • Forest Drive-Eastport Sector Study - This study will define a vision for the corridor and identify recommendations to achieve this vision. There will be another public meeting in the City Council Chambers from 6:30 - 8:30 PM on Wed., June 20th to review the revised draft and gather your input on it.
  • If you see any contractor vehicles parking on the Edgewood Road pedestrian/bike path/sidewalk, please take a picture and send it to me. The City has had some difficulty with a contractor doing work out there who has illegally been blocking these public amenities.

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