Dear Neighbors: Below please find: I. Highlights from Ap. 17 Council Meeting, II. Highlights from Ap. 19 Council Meeting and III. Agenda for Ap. 24 and Ap. 26 Council Meetings.
I. Highlights from April 17 Council Meeting
Budget Work Session:
1. Operations Budget and Capital Budget (City Mgr., Communications, City Clerk, Human Resources, Finance, Information Systems, Recreation)
– Acting Dep. City Manager Eubanks gave presentation including overview and assumptions, budget structure, Reserve fund balances and Capital Improvement Budget by source and expenditure, Police/Public Works/Housing & Community Development and Library highlights and Capital improvement items.
– See link to presentation at City website or: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2023/supplemental-documents/FY24-Budget-Presentation_Operations-CIP-20230418.pdf
– Council dialogued with staff on a wide range of issues including: City Mgr. search costs, reductions in Recreation fees, Rec. participation, Takoma Langley agreement, buses requested, lack of County resources for local recreation, Communications website, ways to reduce expenditures, General Fund and Reserve challenges, etc,
– I described our need to reduce expenditures in order to lower property taxes and suggested possibility of Council requesting an across the board funding reduction of perhaps 2.4%, I was advised by the Mayor that that was not possible so I should instead confer with constituents to identify line item cost reductions for me to propose in the reconciliation process. Council Member Siemens noted value in my suggestion but that it was too late in the budget process. (My rationale for asking for across the board cuts is the extremely limited time, voluminous budget numbers/narrative and recognition that the staff know better than anyone where reductions can best be made.)
– Council agreed to identify goals among Council Priorities for subgroup focus in this budget cycle.
II. Highlights from April 19 Council Meeting
Item #1. Mental Health Crisis Counselor Memorandum of Understanding (Andrew Buldoc, American Rescue Plan Act “ARPA” Mgr.)
– Overview/background presented: To address mental health needs in the City, two years in development, $600k ARPA funding, pilot project with expectation to turn over to the County afterwards.
– Montgomery County Crisis Counselors: Description of County Program features and strengths which Takoma Park pilot to mimic. Included co-location with Police Dept., access to County data, continuum of services, etc.
– Council raised questions including co-location, youth services, intervention strategies, public outreach, steering committee composition and funding. A concern was noted about our pilot in that the Rockvile program is funded by the City reimbursing the County.
– Council will vote on MOU the following week.
Item #2. Public Hearing on the Proposed FY 2024 Budget
– See link at: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/finance/budgets-and-financial-documents/proposed-budget/FY24%20Proposed%20Budget%20for%20Posting.pdf
Public Comments on Voting Items
– Thirteen residents provided comments, 12 of whom were concerned or critical of proposed Budget Tax rate increase (10%) and/or certain expenditures: Paul Huebner (Ward 3), Jeffrey Rosenbaum, Margarite Cyr, Bob Anderson (3), Tom Gagliardo, Ferd Hefner (3), Colleen Cordes, John Rogers, Natalie Hopkins, Jean Capps (3), and Arthur Olson.
– Recommendations included: On-line budget tool, starting budget process sooner, consider impact of County tax rate also, analysis of police vehicle purchases, clearer budget, review Rec. bus purchase, look for other sources of revenue, use ARPA for funding the most vulnerable, create a budget handbook, consider an advisory task force, reconsider City Hall renovation, hiring freeze, turn to MoCo for some services, “mission creep” and raise tax credit allocation.
– Remarks: I couldn’t do justice trying to summarize these that you watch on City Website or on Youtube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOKTDzDFZUA or check out excerpts on WOWD Radio “Talk of Takoma” Ap. 23 1-3pm at: https://takomaradio.org/schedule
General Public Comments
– Three residents provided Comments: 1) Ferd Hoefner noted several problems with the Mental Health Crisis Counselors MOU inconsistent with the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force, 2) Jackie Moore noted inappropriate behavior at Council Meetings and requested Council to act as “Upstanders” vs “Bystanders”, and 3) Megan Scribner encouraged City active engagement in Metro project discussion.
Cindy – Noted concerns about tax duplication and need to respond, and mentioned property tax credits availability.
Cara – Grateful for map of Direct Cash Assistance recipients, noting high Ward 4 representation.
Talisha – Noted goal to balance reduced expenditures with need to increase reserves. Mentioned review of Mental Health Counselor MOU within tight timeframe.
Randy – I thanked those who gave public comments as representative of many others concerned about impact of tax increases on themselves and neighbors.
Voting Session: Single Reading Ordinance Authorizing Procurement of Five Police Vehicles
– Chief DeVaul and Director Braithwaite described the process, policy and staff identified need for procurement.
– Council raised a number of questions including: car vs. cash stipend, allowable mileage for officer’s use, fleet policy, “pursuit rated”, EV alternatives, etc.
– I moved to delay the vote until after FY ’24 budget is completed. The motion failed: five against, 1 abstention, and my vote in affirmative. (My rationale was to not rush process and have better sense of City’s fiscal situation after completing the FY ’24 budget process)
– Vote was taken on the resolution: 6 in favor and my 1 vote opposed. (My rationale was that this reduction would help address unsustainable fiscal trends that increase property taxes and my belief that the reduction would not impact Police performance. Notably, seven more Police vehicles are found in the proposed FY’24 budget.)
Work Session: Operations Budget and Capital Budget (Housing and Community Development, Police Department, Library and Public Works
– Acting Dep. City Manager Eubanks gave a presentation including description of “Maintenance of Effort” budget noting effort to respect balance, continuation of services and a $2m. reduction. He noted trend since 2016 of adding less to funding balances and described revenues and expenditures for Police, CIP, Public Works, and Housing and Community Development. See presentation at: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2023/supplemental-documents/FY24-Budget-Presentation-20230419.pdf
Re. Public Works (Daryl Braitwaite)
– Jason asked about expenses related to tree programs and impacts if cut.
– Cindy noted absence of workload measures in the budget, and asked about impact if fewer sidewalks or roads were repaved, and rationale for 3rd Floor renovation. She asked for list of Public Works fees and noted removal of a Benchmark Study.
– Terry requested updated Equipment Replacement Reserve spreadsheet advising that investments were needed.
– Cara asked where reductions might be made including: 1) one vs two trash trucks, 2) delay of roll-off trailer purchase, 3) 3rd Floor renovations delay and 4) mower delay.
– I asked about impact of decision not to hire two interns, and policy for ADA sidewalk retrofits that replace narrower sidewalks. Daryl responded that fear of litigation is driving policy.
Re. Housing and Community Development (Ira Kowler)
– Jason asked about affordable housing
– I requested details and data on the Neighborhood Commercial Center.
– Talisha highlighted need for economic development. Ira noted two distinct types of economic development programs, those oriented toward helping small business start-ups and those aimed more at revenue creation.
– I highlighted value of performance metrics.
III. Agenda for April 24 and 26 Council Meetings
City Council meetings usually take place in the Community Center Auditorium. Meetings are hybrid. 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.
April 24 Council Agenda 7:30 PM
CALL TO ORDER/ROLL CALL
BUDGET WORK SESSION
1. American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Budget
April 26 Council Agenda 7:30 PM
CALL TO ORDER/ROLL CALL
CHANGES TO THE AGENDA / AGENDA SCHEDULING UPDATE
FOR THE RECORD
· Poetry Month – Reading by Poet Laureate
· Recognition of Montgomery College Scholarship Recipients
PUBLIC COMMENTS ON VOTING ITEMS
· Comment in person or via Zoom.*
GENERAL PUBLIC COMMENTS
· Comment in person or via Zoom.*
*To comment on Zoom, registration is required by 5 pm on the day of the meeting. There is no registration requirement to comment in person.
CITY MANAGER COMMENTS
1. Resolution Authorizing the City Manager to Execute a Memorandum of Agreement with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services for Mental Health Crisis Counselors
BUDGET WORK SESSION
2. Budget Reconciliation