GREENBELT – Property taxes will rise and city police will not get the step increases they lobbied for in the city’s 2015 fiscal budget passed by the mayor and city council last week. The adopted budget of $25,341,500 is a 3 percent increase from the 2014 budget.City police asked council for step increases while the […]
GREENBELT – Property taxes will rise and city police will not get the step increases they lobbied for in the city’s 2015 fiscal budget passed by the mayor and city council last week.
The adopted budget of $25,341,500 is a 3 percent increase from the 2014 budget.
City police asked council for step increases while the budget was being written, but the council did not grant the request. Instead, Greenbelt will provide a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for officers, which will cost the city $117,000.
The budget will keep 54 authorized police staff and substitute for four officers who retired last year. A new three-year arrangement with the police labor union envisages further increases for police over the course of several years.
The adopted budget also includes a 1 percent increase in real property tax, bringing the total rate to 81.2 cents per $100 of assessed property.
Personal property tax will also increase by less than 1 percent, at $1.72 per $100.
Raising taxes allows Greenbelt to provide a 2 percent raise for city personnel, which Mayor Pro Tem Judith Davis said was essential. Improving infrastructure and making sure city employees were adequately paid were the council’s priorities, she said.
“We had to take that into account and we had to raise the tax rate,” she said. “No one likes to do that. We don’t enjoy raising taxes because we are taxpayers, too.”
Councilman Rodney Roberts, who voted against the budget, said increasing the tax rate will likely burden residents whose houses are “underwater,” he said. Many people owe more on their homes, he said, than their homes are worth.
“Since the recession we lost about 40 percent of our property assessments,” Roberts said. “It’s a really tight fiscal situation and we have to be very cautious and prudent. If we wait a couple of years when the property values will go back up, we can get more revenue.”
Greenbelt is still experiencing financial difficulties amidst what Mayor Emmett Jordan called “one of the darkest recessions” the country has been in decades.
“Although we may be seeing the light in the end of the tunnel, it’s not quite here yet,” Davis said.
In the new budget, the city also put aside funds to hire an additional information technology professional and an external relations contractor who will solicit grants, look for training opportunities and promote city image.
The budget does not account for a potential FBI headquarters relocation to Greenbelt. If the FBI does relocate, city staff said “extensive planning” will need to be done to prepare for the expansion of public safety services.
The city will also spend about 50 percent more this year on capital projects than in 2014, with a priority being placed on four projects: renovating the Old Greenbelt Theatre, replacing the HVAC system in the community center, upgrading the aquatic center and repairing the Greenbelt Lake dam.
The theatre will cost the most—a price tag of $1,172,994. The project will install a new digital projection system and upgrade sound equipment, perform fabric cleaning and other redesign tasks.
Councilmembers Davis and Konrad Herling said the renovation will attract tourists and benefit the community.
Replacing the HVAC system in the 55,000-square-foot community center will cost $360,000 but is estimated to reduce electricity costs by 10 percent after its installation.
The 26-year old aquatic center will get a new roof, costing about $100,000. The dam repairs will cost $110,000 but the state is providing partial funding.