BOWIE – The Mayor and City Council unanimously passed a $50.8 million general fund budget for 2016 Monday night, which includes a 1.95 percent pay raise for all employees and maintains the real property tax rate for the sixth consecutive year. The budget represents a 7 percent increase from last year’s budget, or more than […]
BOWIE – The Mayor and City Council unanimously passed a $50.8 million general fund budget for 2016 Monday night, which includes a 1.95 percent pay raise for all employees and maintains the real property tax rate for the sixth consecutive year.
The budget represents a 7 percent increase from last year’s budget, or more than $3 million.
City Manager David Deutsch said that property tax revenue accounts for 58 percent of city revenue. Income tax receipts are expected to be less than FY15, falling short by $296,600. A slight recovery of 1.49 percent is expected in FY16, yielding a total of $8.4 million.
The city will also receive $2.7 in highway user fund revenue from the state—its highest allocation in nine years.
“Bowie has the largest road mileage total of any Maryland municipality,” Deutsch said. “For the last two years, the State provided an additional increment of approximately $1 million over the ‘base’ figure of about $457,000. Governor (Larry) Hogan initially continued the approach of the two previous years in his FY16 State Budget proposal, which would have yielded $1,504,300 in HUR funds to Bowie.
Deutsch said this will be the largest HUR allocation in nine years.
The budget also provides the city police department’s with $10 million, including funding for body cameras. was approved. The budget includes money for the hiring of three new officers: one officer assigned to the patrol section, one officer assigned to the problem-solving directed response team and one for the criminal investigation division to focus on fraud and identity theft cases.
The police department will use $70,000 of the budget money to outfit their officers with body cameras in order to help improve accountability and transparency and ensure accuracy of accounts when interacting with citizens or making an arrest.
The city police are also looking get accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies, which will cost $10,500 in 2016.
The application process will take several months but the city and police think it’s a “worthwhile effort.” “Benefits of CALEA accreditation include greater accountability within the department, reduced risk and liability exposure, and stronger defense against civil lawsuits,” Deutsch said in a memo.
The most discussed item under the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) is the indoor sports facility. The project has stalled due to the difficulty in finding and agreeing on a site to locate the new facility. The site must have 8.1 acres in order to build.
“The proposed budget has $3,045,000 for hiring a project management firm and for architectural and engineering design,” Deutsch said on page xii of the memo. “The CIP still shows construction of this project in FY2018 for $20,300,000. Staff will continue to search for an appropriate site for this structure. However, until a site is selected, this project is stymied.”
Councilmember James Marcos does not think the proposed budget varied from the final budget which city council approved Monday.
“I think that the proposed budget was a good start and as always, staff worked together to come up with the best path toward a good, balanced budget,” Marcos said. “The one that we adopted had just minor changes in it and I don’t think that really affected too much. I was very pleased.”
The minor change Marcos noted regarded funds for a scoreboard in Church Road Park. It was cause for debate.
“Our decision to kind of push that out a bit instead of paying for the scoreboard which would have been an additional $36,000.00,” Marcos said. “We decided to push it further out in the budget to 2017 so it can be discussed then and voted upon then. So instead of bringing it into this budget and spending more money, we pushed it out for more discussion, that’s basically all we did.”
Councilwoman Diane Polangin approved not only the budget, but the process.
“Oh, I’m just delighted that it went as lovely as it did,” she said. “It’s a good budget. It’s clear, it’s concise. We didn’t raise taxes. There were no additions. This is a stress-free budget session.”