My apologies for sending this message rather late in the evening the day before our City Council meeting tomorrow night (Monday, April 23), which is the first of two Council meetings this week. I’ve experienced some computer technology problems that have delayed my ability to send this report out, and prevented me from including all the usual links to the various agenda items. So I regret that this is a narrative description only, with no links. I recommend that residents go to the City Council website (takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/) and scroll down to “City Council Meetings - Agendas”, where you should be able to access the relevant background information. I hope I’ll be able to circulate the links tomorrow.
As noted, there are two City Council meetings this week, on Monday, April 23 starting at 7:30 PM and on Wednesday, April 25, starting at 6:30 PM. The first meeting will feature initial presentations on the two Takoma Junction traffic studies from the outside contractors that conducted them. Then there will be a Council discussion relating to capital expenditures for the City, as part of our work on the Fiscal Year 2019 municipal budget (which starts on July 1). The Monday Council discussion of the capital budget will be the second of three special Monday evening meetings this month, leading toward votes on the budget and local tax rate next month. There is no public comment period at the Monday meeting; the public will be able to offer comments as always at the Wednesday meeting.
Wednesday’s meeting kicks off with public hearings on the proposed local property tax increase and on the proposed 2019 budget. We’ll also have the second and final vote on repeal of the local Inventory Tax, which applies to businesses in Takoma Park, and a vote on renewing a technical support contract for the Library’s Computer Center. I’ll be voting “yes” on both of those agenda items. The rest of the Wednesday meeting will be devoted to more detailed Takoma Junction traffic study presentations and a full Council work session and discussion on the information. I don’t anticipate that Councilmembers or residents will be able to fully absorb the findings and recommendations from the two traffic studies by Wednesday. So I look forward to there being further opportunities for the community to comment on the traffic information that’s presented.
The City Manager’s proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget calls for an increase in the local property tax rate from $0.5348 per $100 of assessed real property value to a rate of $0.545 per $100. For a home assessed at $500,000 this would mean an increase in the Takoma Park tax bill from $2,674 to $2,725, provided there is no change from the previous year in the assessed value. If the assessment has increased, which is the case for many homes in the City, the amount would increase by more. These tax rates can be compared to what’s known as the Constant Yield, the rate at which the City would take in the same overall amount of taxes as in the previous year. That rate is $0.5075. Under Constant Yield, for a home again assessed at $500,000, the tax would be $2,538. The gap between Constant Yield and the tax rate in the proposed budget represents $896,000 in spending.
In other words, to the extent the Council can reduce proposed spending in the budget by some share of that amount, we can move the proposed rate lower. For example, $244,000 in spending reductions would take the rate back to the current year’s level. It would take another $652,000 in cuts to get back to Constant Yield. For the current year’s budget, I was pleased to be able to play a role in reducing the tax rate slightly below Constant Yield. My goal as we move forward with deliberations on the budget and tax rate in the coming weeks is to preserve key City programs, make progress in some priority areas identified by the Council, and seek reductions in spending that can get us toward a lower rate.
I look forward to hearing from the community at the public hearings, but if you’re unable to make it, there will be other opportunities to weigh in on these issues. You can offer your views in the public comment period in the Council meeting on May 2, and also send your comments by email to the City Clerk or to me. In addition, I’m hosting a public meeting on Tuesday, May 1 at 7:30 PM in the Community Center Hydrangea Room, where residents can comment on these or any other issues, including of course Takoma Junction. And, I’ll be announcing other times when I’ll be available in the community for informal meetings. Once we get deeper into May, the contours of the budget and tax rate begin to firm up, so I encourage residents who wish to comment on those two matters to do so in the next couple of weeks.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One