BOWIE – The city council voted unanimously to approve the fiscal year 2017 (FY17) operating budget and the capital improvement program (CIP) for fiscal years 2017 through 2022 at its May 16 meeting. “It’s solid, it’s conservative, it’s predictable, it covers all the core services,” Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said of the budget ordinance. The […]
BOWIE – The city council voted unanimously to approve the fiscal year 2017 (FY17) operating budget and the capital improvement program (CIP) for fiscal years 2017 through 2022 at its May 16 meeting.
“It’s solid, it’s conservative, it’s predictable, it covers all the core services,” Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said of the budget ordinance.
The approved operating budget totals $52.8 million in appropriated funds, which is an increase of $333,200 over the proposal first made by City Manager David Deutsch and city staff on April 11. The city revised its revenue estimates from $19.14 million to $19.2 million.
Overall, the changes are very minor, city officials said.
“The ordinance as initially presented is about 99 percent intact,” Deutsch said.
Councilwoman Diane Polangin noted that no one on the council had any additional projects to add to the proposal this cycle.
“This was without a doubt the easiest budget session I’ve ever sat through in nine years. Normally we’d get a beautifully well-balanced budget from the staff, but then every now and then somebody has something they want to add. This year, nobody had any special pet projects,” she said.
The council did make some line-item changes to the proposal during its review process. Funding for the street maintenance division was cut by $40,600, while in the city’s equipment acquisition and replacement fund, transfers from the general fund were reduced by $6,000.
In the water and sewer fund, total revenue estimates were revised upward from $7.2 million to $7.5 million, with the $288,500 difference used to increase the budget for the wastewater division to about $3.2 million.
Turning to the capital projects fund, the revenue estimate dropped from $8.82 million to $8.8 million, necessitating some cuts. The budget for the Bowie Railroad Museum was cut by $9,000, while the appropriation for public art fell by $20,000. The appropriation for renewable energy technology, however, rose from $50,000 to $83,800.
Councilman Michael Esteve said the city’s CIP also saw changes in the timetable for most of the projects proposed.
“There was a delaying of most of our capital improvement projects and that was related to the costs associated with some of the new items that are in our budget,” he said.
One of those items is a new indoor sports complex, which Esteve said could cost up to $27 million including interest payments on bonds.
Polangin said she was “very pleased” the sports complex was funded in the budget. And other council members had other items they particularly supported.
Mayor Pro Tem Henri Gardner said he felt supporting the city’s police and fire departments were important to constituents.
“One of the areas that I find is the most important is public safety, in continuance of providing the need of the Bowie Police Department at the financial level,” he said.
He said it was always his goal in the budget process to “maintain our current core services that we have in the city of Bowie, as well as working to prevent any increases of taxes.”
All the council members expressed their pleasure that the budget did not include any changes to the tax rate, for the seventh year in a row. However, Esteve said that will be “challenging” to maintain going forward due to rising costs.
“This year the budget was balanced without a tax hike. We did have to eat into our reserves by about $2 million. My concern is what we’re going to do in the future about our water and sewer program because that is coming up against tens of millions of dollars in needed repairs to address the brown water issue that a lot of residents have been struggling with,” he said. “We simply don’t have the reserves to cover the needed expense of fixing the system. And so in the future what we’re going to have to do is study every possible avenue to be able to fund that system.”
Those solutions could potentially include a loan from the city’s reserve funds or more use of outside grants.
Esteve said the council had begun thinking about funding solutions this year, asking for more information and data by city staff to determine if any cost-savings could be found in existing city programs.
“We asked the city to study a lot of particular issues, especially with certain programs. I was interested in how we can achieve efficiencies in the future on specific programs,” he said.
But council members are confident those solutions will be possible because of what Robinson described as the “professional approach and civil (discussions)” they were able to hold.
“We don’t always agree but we agree to disagree. And that’s why we respect each other so much,” Polangin said.