BOWIE – City Manager David Deutsch presented a $50.8 million budget to the mayor and city council on Monday that will keep tax rates level for the sixth consecutive year and provide almost $2 million in additional funding to the city’s police department. According to Deutsch, the property tax rate will remain at $0.40 per […]
BOWIE – City Manager David Deutsch presented a $50.8 million budget to the mayor and city council on Monday that will keep tax rates level for the sixth consecutive year and provide almost $2 million in additional funding to the city’s police department.
According to Deutsch, the property tax rate will remain at $0.40 per $100 of assessed value, but the city will still receive a 2 percent increase in property tax revenue because growth in the assessable base, with further growth expected in 2017 as the economy continues to recover.
“We’ve managed to keep the same tax rate for the past six years with no increases which is remarkable,” said Councilman James Marcos.
The total budget represents a 6.8 percent increase from the 2015 budget, Deutsch said.
The police department will receive $10 million, including funding for three additional police officers and $70,000 for body cameras. Deutsch has also proposed $10,500 to begin getting the police department accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies.
The budget also maintains the city’s triple A bond rating. The city must maintain reserves of 25 percent.
“It shows the strength of our finances,” Deutsch said. “Somebody on Wall Street or one of the rating services is not going to give you an exact number but if we only had 3 or 4 percent, I don’t think we’d be Triple A.”
In addition to the operating budget, Deutsch also proposed a $11.7 million capital improvements program, which includes $812,700 for improvements to the Kenhill Center.
“We knew that the roof was deteriorating and we realized that the most appropriate thing to do was to recommend that it be done in fiscal 2016,” said Deutsch.
The proposed budget also includes $3 million for hiring a project management firm for a proposed indoor sports facility, as well as architectural and engineering design. Construction is slated for 2018.
“We haven’t solved the site selection issue, so we can’t get to hiring consultants to actually begin design until we know where we’re going to build it and what indeed it’s going to be,” Deutsch said. “Is it going to be a single combined facility providing skating, hockey and figure skating opportunities along with basketball courts or is it going to be one or the other with possibly two projects done sequentially? Council kind of kicked that around a little bit last night but a decision was not made last night.”
Marcos said he thinks the indoor sports facility is a “great” project.
“I know there is a definite need and the fact that it does cover 70 percent of the operating expenses,” Marcos said. “It’s one of the few items that the city has that almost pays for itself.”
While taxes may not be going up, residents could see an additional 30 cents added to their water bill because the budget proposed raises the total fee to $10.34 per thousand gallons. The increase will cost a typical resident consuming 15,000 gallons per quarter an additional $4.50 on their quarterly bill, Deutsch said.
“It’s a 3 percent increase,” Deutsch said. “We have had a series of 10 percent increases so we were pleased to be able to bring it in at only 3 percent. It’s expensive to operate a water and sewer operation.”
The proposal is minimal, Deutsch said, and the city needs more money to address its aging water and sewer infrastructure.
“It’s a costly operation in terms of all the compliance that we have to do in terms of environmental regulations, repairing broken pipes and those kinds of things,” Deutsch said.
Councilman Henri Gardner said he is glad the city is able to provide more funding for the police department while continuing to maintain the other services it provides and not increasing tax rates.
“There are a number of municipalities throughout the region and throughout the nation that have failed to continue to provide services,” Gardner said. “We have twice-weekly trash collection, once-a-week recycling program, we’ve maintained our roads and highways well and we continue to provide public safety for our police department, our recreation centers, our senior center, these are a number of items that many municipalities have perhaps thrown to the side because of hard times. We’ve managed to provide all of these services while expanding our police department, while maintaining a specific lifestyle that we’ve become accustomed to as well as our leaf removal program that many residents are very pleased with in our area. We’ve been able to do this without any increase in taxes and it’s phenomenal.”
Deutsch looks forward to the next sessions to be held every Monday night until the budget is approved on May 18.
“We’re glad to get started and we look forward to the next four budget work sessions,” he said. “We’re looking forward to moving ahead and tackling the rest of the issues. We had a good start last night.”