The City Dock Advisory Committee will present its proposed City Dock Master Plan to City Council on Monday, November 26. Mayor Josh Cohen discusses the history behind the plan and the proposed changes in the future in this month’s video update. The mayor also talks about the upcoming holidays and offers two hours of free parking in downtown Annapolis beginning on Thanksgiving. Later in the video, the mayor highlights Small Business Saturday, Midnight Madness, and other exciting holiday festivities, including the City Hall Holiday Open House.
Mayor Cohen discusses how the City of Annapolis is taking steps to revise and improve its ordinances, polices and procedures that relate to Maryland’s Forest Conservation Act. The Mayor also recaps the FY13 budget, talks about the Spring Flower program and gets us ready for the City’s big fourth of July Celebration.
(From yesterday’s Sunday Capital. You can read it on the website here.)
Proposed budget faces Annapolis’ fiscal challenges head-on
In 1892 a young salesman named William Wrigley, Jr. was selling baking powder to businesses in Chicago. As an incentive, he started offering two free packages of chewing gum with each can of baking powder.
As Wrigley put it, “everybody likes something extra, for nothing.” The free gum soon became more popular than the baking powder, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Wrigley’s marketing strategy of giving people something for nothing may be clever salesmanship, but it’s a recipe for lousy government.
Before I was elected Mayor, Annapolis’ version of giving people something for nothing meant spending beyond our means despite underfunding our financial obligations. And the results were best summed up by the late Philadelphia humorist Franklin P. Jones who said, “when you get something for nothing, you just haven’t been billed for it yet.”
For the City of Annapolis, the bills have come due. And from day one of this administration, we have been meeting the challenge head-on.
We are putting our fiscal house in order, not by hewing to the ideology of the right or the left, but by facing up to the practical truth that we have to pay for what we get.
Our two-pronged approach has slashed expenses by laying off employees, consolidating departments and eliminating positions, while also boosting revenues through higher property taxes and fees. Both approaches have been painful but necessary.
The actions we have taken, along with a yeoman’s effort by our dedicated City employees, resulted in a FY 2011 budget surplus – the first time in ten years that the City balanced its budget. Moreover, after eight straight years of dipping into our piggy bank and depleting our cash reserves, we are now filling them back up.
We are also addressing our long term liabilities. Last year’s water and sewer rate increases ensure full funding to maintain this critical utility infrastructure and build a new water plant, and the stormwater rate increase is allowing us to restore eroded shorelines and reduce pollutants entering our waterways.
Still, we have more work to do. The proposed FY13 budget continues to address our fiscal challenges while meeting our obligation to deliver quality services.
This budget continues to achieve efficiencies by merging Planning and Zoning with Neighborhood and Environmental Programs. In addition to improving coordination and communication during the permit process, this merger will further reduce the number of departments and offices from 16 two years ago down to 10.
The budget reduces the household solid waste bill by $48 through more efficient staffing and changes such as once-a-week trash pickup.
The budget proposes new spending to address long term infrastructure and personnel liabilities. While we cannot fully fund these liabilities overnight, we must continue to make real progress every year:
- $600,000 for a new sidewalk fund to repair our crumbling public sidewalks, funded by a penny of the proposed tax rate increase.
- Increasing the City’s vehicle replacement fund by $832,000.
- Increasing the City’s contribution to the Police and Fire Pension from 0.5 percent to 4 percent of payroll, at a cost of $741,000
- Eliminating furlough days at a cost of $662,772, as part of a negotiated package that reduces our retiree medical liability
- Doubling the City’s retiree medical reserve funding from $100,000 to $200,000
The budget restores nine positions because, due to the layoffs, we are understaffed to the point that it undermines our ability to do the job. Some of the new positions will improve customer service, for instance by speeding up building review and inspections. Others will plug critical holes in our support structure, such as new accountants in the Finance Office.
The budget requires raising the property tax rate 2.83 cents above constant yield for a 4.5% overall revenue increase. Still, even with the increased funding for liabilities, we will have fewer employees and will be spending less on personnel than when I took office.
The proposed FY 2013 budget avoids the trap of trying to offer something for nothing. While the City Council will have a healthy debate about the level of service to provide, there should be no debate about the need to meet our fiscal obligations. This budget does just that.