March 19, 2023

March 19, 2023 Ward 3 Council Update

Dear Neighbors: Below please find: I. Highlights from March 15 Council Meeting and II. Agenda for March 22 Council Meeting.

I. Highlights from March 15 Council Meeting

Closed Session held to consider litigation (E&R Services v. City)

MD Legislative Updates: 

  • Several Bill moving forward: Unlawful Restrictions Covenant, Energy Efficiency for Low Income Housing, and Clean Energy Homes
  • “Safe Roads” Bill may pass but pending SHA letter
  • Testimony given including Mayor Searcy on Sprinkler System in High Rises bill 
  • Clean Energy Equipment bill (HB101) passed House

Public Comments

  • Tom Gagliardo commented on Council refusal, preceding Closed Session, to allow his comment about interpretation of Open Meetings act. He advocated for more information from Council regarding Closed Sessions to foster trust. He asked for an apology for derisive language used.
  • John Rogers highlighted impacts of raising property taxes on fixed income homeowners and renters both.
  • Sue Miller noted frustration with budget and staff growth, and opacity. She asked that the Council should ask: Why expenses have grown? What are essential services? and Which services could the County provide?
  • Christine Simpson from Historical Society highlighted importance of addressing the proposed Metro plans, noting concerns for stormwater runoff, traffic implications and reduced parking access for elderly and disabled. She recommended contacting various entities before WMAT staff report scheduled for the spring.
  • Paul Huebner noted appreciation for response from various Council Members to his comments last week on SNAP. He asked Council to describe process for residents to provide input in City Manager recruitment process.

Council Comments:

  • I thanked the public commenters recognizing their contributions and agreeing with their importance. I also thanked the 25 or so volunteers, several from Ward 3, who earlier today helped clean up many bags of trash and tires found in Sligo Mills Neighborhood Conservation Area.
  • Noted: Ward 3 Budget Discussion on Sunday, March 26 at 2pm at Spring Park Pavilion, corner of Elm and Poplar Ave. (Please come and tell your neighbors)
  • Jason noted upcoming Ward 6 meeting with Purple Line officials.  Also noted upcoming Fentanyl Crisis meeting.
  • Cindy noted 1) Ward 2 Code Enforcement meeting (recorded) held last week that pointed to need for amending the Code, 2) Transportation Planning Bd meeting which agreed to revise it Environmental Justice Analysis, and 3) Possible DOE grant (Building Up) which the city might apply for.  
  • Shana noted upcoming Ward 1 Budget meeting on March 23 at Municipal building.
  • Cara thanked public commenters and described successful Ward 4 Public Safety Meeting held on Monday.

Acting City Manager Comments (David Eubanks)

  • Two recent graduates from Police Academy making a total of 42 (of 43) police positions filled.
  • Roof of Rec. Center being worked on over next two weeks.
  • OTBA Safety Grant used to explore options for Laurel Avenue. Public survey released and residents are encouraged to enter. To post on City website (open thru Mar. 24) 

Agenda Item 1: Second reading Ordinance Approving FY23 Budget Amendment no. 5

I asked four budget questions which were answered by Mr. Eubanks and through email from Dir. of Finance Chung (her email response below).

“Thank you for your email. Please see my responses below:

1) Would it be correct to say the final projected budget figure of $9,302,260 will be reduced by a $5m drawn on the Library Bond fund? 

In the FY23 Projected Budget, the City will use $5 million from the Bond Fund and $2.5 million from the Special Revenue Cable Grant Reserve Fund for the Library construction project. As indicated in the General Fund FY23 Budget and Fund Source spreadsheet, the total projected deficit is $9.3 million. Of that amount, $5 million will be covered by the Bond Reserve and the remaining $4.3 million will be funded by all other reserve funds.

2) Would this figure then be further reduced by $3.3m from the “designated subsequent years” category of the General Fund?

Yes, the City can elect to use the funds in the Designated Subsequent Years in the Committed Reserve and or the Unassigned Reserve.

3) Although we do not have the final revenue or expenditures for the end of this fiscal year, would it be reasonable to expect that the City will maintain an “unassigned reserve” of about 17%?

We believe that we can maintain the “Unassigned Reserve” at the level about 17% in FY23 year end. Unfortunately, with the on-going budget deficit “and actual deficit in the past few years, we have reason to believe that the “Unassigned Reserve” will not sustain more than seven years.

4) Given the above projections, would this mean the City will have an approximate $2m deficiency that must be met by cost reductions and/or tax and revenue increases?

The City staff is working on the cost reduction and tax and or revenue increases in the FY24 budget. David and all the department heads are working diligently to find ways to reduce the expenditures in the General Fund. As for Fiscal Year 2023, we are already advancing to the end of the 3rd quarter of the fiscal year, most likely we have no or very limited options for any revenue increases.  We could work on expenditure reduction if the contracts were not signed and the work schedule not started. However, during the work process of FY23 Projected Budget, the department heads reminded us that a lot of the contracts were finalized. “

  • Council members continued to discuss these and other budget issues such as constant yield with Mr. Eubanks. He mentioned “confounding” practices over recent years with reserve withdrawals not being replaced, thereby needing to use unassigned reserves. He stated his intention to not draw down additional reserves in next year’s budget proposal.
  • Mr. Eubanks shared that staff were preparing a proposed budget based on what they had heard Council say, one that would be close to “maintenance of effort” numbers. I remarked that I and other Council Members wanted to see more than one budget scenario including “Constant Yield”. We were told that we would receive more than one budget scenarios “in concept”.

Item #2: Discussion of Council Priorities

  • Council held an extended discussion on a new draft version of Council Priorities (see link below) that Mayor Searcy had put together based on: 1) the 2021-22 City Council Priorities, 2) current Council’s Retreat held on Jan. 30 and 3) follow-up edits by individual Council Members.  
  • I noted that the document so far contained a strong list of Priorities, Goals and Strategies but was lacking in performance metrics. Issues discussed included each of six priorities including Environmental Sustainability in which I had proposed a number of new strategies. Additional review and edits of the version below will take place off-line. The hope is that a final version can be approved at the next Council session.
  • Click to access Council-Priorities-v2-draft.pdf

II. Agenda for March 22, 2023 Council Meeting

City Council meetings usually take place in the Community Center Auditorium. The public may attend the meeting or view the meeting as always: on City TV (RCN – 13, HD 1060; Comcast/xfinity – 13, HD 997; Verizon Fios – 28), on the City Council Video Page of the City Website; on YouTube, or on Facebook.   Meetings may also be viewed on Zoom.

Upcoming Agendas (PDF)

1. Police Department Annual Report

FOR THE RECORD   Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (March 2023) (PDF)

2. Financial Forecast (PDF)

· Presentation agenda (PDF)

· Presentation (PDF)


(Sign up for public comments over Zoom will be open until 5:00 PM on the day of the meeting. Registration is not required to comment in person.)

Link to Comment on Zoom 


3. (Tentative) Discussion of Council Priorities


4. Overview of the FY 2024 Budget Process (PDF)