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Welcome to my blog, which features frequent updates on local Takoma Park issues, including City Council meeting agendas, plus occasional commentary on national news and politics.

May 4, 2016 City Council Meeting Agenda

Dear Neighbors:

This week’s City Council meeting will feature further discussion on the 2017 municipal budget, along with a discussion on the elimination of one category of parking permit, and a report on last month’s Takoma/Langley Crossroads Walking Tour. We’ll be starting early with a 6:00 PM closed session to discuss the City Attorney’s evaluation. The public portion of the meeting starts at 7:30 PM. Here’s a link to the agenda:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-agenda-20160504.pdf

Area B Parking Permits. While the agenda lists the budget reconciliation discussion as the first item, we will likely start with the Discussion of Eliminating the Area B Parking Permit Program:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160504-2.pdf.

This permit program is not widely used: currently fewer than 10 permits are made available under it. While it may have made sense at one point, I think the logic for continuing the program no longer applies. I am in favor of ending the program.

Final Budget Reconciliation.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160504-1.pdf

The Council will discuss various proposals that have been put forward by Councilmembers and staff to amend the City Manager’s proposed budget, which you can see here:


The process of deciding whether to approve these proposals (which can involve increases or decreases from the proposed budget) is known as reconciliation. We will be expressing our support for or against the items on the reconciliation list, with the goal of reaching at least a tentative agreement on the overall budget and tax rates. That package will then be subject to preliminary votes on May 11 and final votes on May 18.

As described previously, my goal is to maintain existing levels of service in the city, and increase funding for several priority areas, while holding down property tax rates. The current rate of taxes is $0.585 per $100 of assessed property valuation. Because on average Takoma Park property values have risen, it is estimated that we can bring in the same amount of taxes in Fiscal Year 2017 (which starts on July 1) as in our current Fiscal Year, with a lower rate of $0.5518 per $100 of assessed value. That lower number is known as the Constant Yield Rate.

The higher rate is estimated to produce about $697,000 more in revenue compared to the Constant Yield Rate. This means that, to the extent that the reconciliation items we approve have a net negative impact on the level of spending in the City Manager’s budget, we can move in the direction of the Constant Yield Rate (which would on average keep local real estate taxes about where they are, with some variation depending on the individual property assessments recently calculated by the State).

While I would like to increase funding substantially for affordable housing ($300,000 - $400,000) as proposed by the Mayor, and I support increased expenditures for programs like the Folk Festival, the proposed scholarship fund, additional Play Days, the parent advocacy program, and expanded hours for the multimedia lab, I believe those items (which combined with the affordable housing fund would cost between $340,000 and $440,000) can be more than offset in other ways.

First, as I have noted previously, through bond financing we can save $580,000 on the costs for the Ethan Allen Gateway project and the Flower Avenue Green Street. In addition, as mentioned in an earlier memo, I am not supportive of going forward with the new environmental enforcement position (which could save approximately $150,000).  Other savings indicated on the reconciliation list include $97,000 for health care savings and $93,000 for eliminating the Exterior Home Repair program. Furthermore, I would like to explore holding off on the annual residents’ survey (which would save $35,000), and reduce our budget reserves by another $100,000 (which would still keep the reserves at a prudent level).

While that set of proposals has the potential to get us fairly close to the Constant Yield Rate, I have no doubt that my colleagues on the Council will have other ideas about proposals they would like to fund or areas they would target for reductions. So, I don’t know where we will end up, but I anticipate a candid exchange of ideas as we discuss these and other issues.  As usual, there is time set aside at the beginning of the meeting for public comment, and I encourage residents to come forward to offer their opinions on these budget and tax issues.

Report Out on the April 15 Bi-County Takoma/Langley Crossroads Walking Tour.   https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160504-3.pdf

Last month, I was pleased to be part of a walking tour coordinated by my Council Colleague Fred Schultz aimed at improving understanding of the businesses and the overall economic environment in the Crossroads area, in both the Montgomery County and Prince George’s County sections. I thought it was a very valuable opportunity to hear from local business leaders, and I look forward to both hearing Councilmember Schultz’s report and looking at possible next steps.

Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One

May 11, 2016 City Council Meeting Agenda