BOWIE – The mayor and city council unanimously passed a $46.3 million general fund budget for 2015 Monday night, which includes a pay raise for all employees and keeps the property tax rate stagnant. Assistant City Manager John Fitzwater said the budget, which the mayor and council passed unanimously, includes a 1.85 percent cost-of-living […]
BOWIE – The mayor and city council unanimously passed a $46.3 million general fund budget for 2015 Monday night, which includes a pay raise for all employees and keeps the property tax rate stagnant.
Assistant City Manager John Fitzwater said the budget, which the mayor and council passed unanimously, includes a 1.85 percent cost-of-living increase for all city employees, while eligible city employees will receive step increases.
The mayor and council also passed a $7.58 million capital budget, which includes $1.1 million for a proposed sports facility. The money will be spent toward finding a site and a project developer, Fitzwater said. The city hopes to begin construction in fiscal year 2016 and open it by Dec. 2018.
According to the city manager’s proposed 2015 budget the speed camera program has helped to reduce average speeds in areas located near schools. Speed camera revenue declined by 36 percent between FY13 and FY14. The city expects a further 5 percent drop to $926,800 in FY15.
The budget also includes $345,671 to add four officers to the city’s police force and $43,200 for two electric motorcycles.
Bowie Mayor Pro Tem Isaac Trouth said the sports facility was a major issue the mayor and council wanted to address. He said the budget meets many of the goals the council hoped to achieve.
“Going into the council session we did not to increase the taxes for services,” Trouth said. “One of the big things for us was also the police department, we need to really increase the size of the force of the police department…those were just a few of the things that we really wanted to accomplish. One of the major objectives of this council was to make sure the taxes do not go up,” said Trouth. “In addition, we do not want to reduce our call services responsibility.”
David McGowan a dispatcher for the county’s call center said the city’s idea to create its own call center in Bowie is not a good idea.
“The cost to the citizens is not worth any perceived benefit that they’re going to get,” said McGowan. “This new call center will not, in my opinion, reduce response times of the police department to emergencies—be it non-emergency, or 911 emergencies—within the city of Bowie. They’re voting on it tonight, $500,000 per year to start, that’s my money and I think if it’s going to be of great benefit to the city, it’s not too much money. But in my opinion, it’s of no benefit to the city or the residents of Bowie therefore it’s a waste of money.”
According to Councilmember Diane Polangin, the council decided on creating a call center a long time ago. The call center was part of the five-year plan, she said, and the council has been discussing funding it for more than a year.
McGowan said if the city starts its own call center it will cause a delay of service for residents.
“All they’re going to do here is take the calls,” McGowan. “They will then probably send the calls over to us via computer where our systems now have to link up and it will go to dispatch and it will go out just as quickly and they will probably no doubt call the non-emergency number sometimes for that because citizens do that and when that happens the non-emergency call center in Bowie, that emergency will have to be transferred over to our call center anyway and it will wait in line with the rest of the calls.”
Polangin, said she disagrees with McGowan’s statements.
“This is a different call center,” she said. “It would connect people directly to Bowie instead of going to Prince George’s County and then figuring out where they are,” said Polangin. “This would not tie anybody up, it will be for people who live in Bowie and need help in Bowie. It’s not going to delay anything.”