May is proving to be a busy month. This Monday will be your first opportunity to testify on the proposed tax increase and the City’s FY19 budget. I’ll give you more information about this and on a new ordinance I’ve introduced along with County Councilman Trumbauer to ban single-use foam in the City and County.
Next Council Meeting - Monday, May 14th, 7pm (posted agenda)
- Report from the Finance Committee - The Committee will be presenting on their recommendations regarding the FY19 budget.
- Foam ban O-22-18 introduced on 1st reader (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 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. The public hearing on this will be at a future meeting.
- Equal protection task force R-18-18 introduced on 1st reader (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. The public hearing on this will be at a future meeting.
- Public Hearing on the FY19 budget and the proposed tax increase - As you are likely aware, the Mayor has proposed a 20% tax rate increase (or $0.13 per every $100 of assessed value). I’ve been attending or watching nearly all of the Finance Committee Meetings, where they have been going through the details of the budget and the City’s finances. I have been trying to keep an open mind as to the appropriateness of the proposed tax increase. What I’ve learned is that the City is facing many serious financial challenges that were made worse by the previous administration. I don’t like blaming the past for the difficult choices we need to make today, but in this case it’s entirely appropriate. If you view the breakdown of where each cent of the tax increase is going, you’ll see what I mean. As an example, to avoid raising taxes, the previous administration failed to properly fund the firefighters and Police pensions as well as their “Other Post-Retirement Benefits” (OPEB). This alone totals 1.6 cents. Another example is that the previous administration was purchasing vehicles, sidewalks, and roads using bond money, instead of taking money out of our operating money. This means these assets cost us much more over the long-run than they should have. I do not agree with going into debt to pay for our everyday expenses. This totals 5 cents of the increase to shift from bonds to what’s known as “pay go” (pay as you go operating money).
All that said, I tend not to favor tax increases, especially one of this size, without associated cuts. Many of us are working on identifying such cuts. However, it has become quite apparent to me that it is unavoidable, after at least 4 years without any tax rate increase, that there will likely need to be at least some increase to help us right the ship. I do want to commend the Mayor for being so courageous as to do what he feels is needed to accomplish that. I’m just not at a point yet where I entirely agree with his proposed budget, nor where I am comfortable with the proposed increase. For example, I do not agree with granting all of the “enhancements” (i.e. additional funding) requested by the Departments. Some make sense, but others don’t. Personally, I also wish they had submitted possible cuts.
All that said, I welcome any thoughts you may have on the budget and look forward to the public testimony.
Here is a breakdown of the budgetary process that was prepared by my colleague Alderwoman Tierney.
For some background before you testify this is the budgetary process:
- By the second Monday in March, the Mayor submits to the City Council a proposed budget for the General Fund and each of the enterprise funds for the fiscal year commencing the following July 2 This budget can be found on City homepage or click here.
- The budget is referred to the Finance Committee, which makes recommendation on the budget to the full City Council by the second Monday in May. For tapes of these committee meetings click here. They will present their recommendations this Monday, May 14.
- The City Council will hold public hearing to obtain taxpayer comments. First will be this Monday, May 14.
- No later than June 30, the budget is legally enacted through passage of a budget ordinance which establishes spending authority by fund for the operations of the City.
- Supplemental appropriations and transfers between funds must be approved by the City Council.
- All budgets are on an annual basis except the Capital Projects Fund budget, which is on a project basis. Budgets are adopted using non-GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) budgetary basis of accounting as used for reporting purposes.