GREENBELT – If the Greenbelt city budget is a roadmap, most of the landmarks for fiscal year 2017 are staff and services. In a 6-0 vote, the city council approved a $27.2 million balanced budget on June 6. That amount includes an additional $94,500 in general fund expenditures and $75,000 more in general fund revenues […]
GREENBELT – If the Greenbelt city budget is a roadmap, most of the landmarks for fiscal year 2017 are staff and services.
In a 6-0 vote, the city council approved a $27.2 million balanced budget on June 6. That amount includes an additional $94,500 in general fund expenditures and $75,000 more in general fund revenues compared to the proposal submitted by City Manager Michael McLaughlin.
However, the council felt the increase was relatively small in the grand scheme of things. The new expenditures count for less than one-half of 1 percent of the total budget allocations.
“The city manager gave us a balanced budget, and we didn’t have much, really, to increase,” Mayor Pro Tem Judith Davis said. “There weren’t much extra funds. There are a few items, but generally speaking, the budget did not change all that much.”
Many of the additional appropriations were possible because of a $100,000 reimbursement the city will receive from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover costs it incurred during Winter Storm Jonas earlier this year. This meant the increases did not come with cuts to other programs to maintain a balanced budget.
“It’s important to say the services have been maintained. We’re doing a lot with not much more,” Councilwoman Leta Mach said.
The changes approved include adding $10,000 for an audit of the security of the city’s computer network; two additional $1,000 grants: one to Greenbelt Soccer Alliance and the other to the Greenbelt Community Foundation; $8,500 to increase the hours worked by the geriatric case manager by four per week; and an additional $14,000 for economic development initiatives.
Councilman Konrad Herling said he was pleased the allocation for economic development was increased.
“I’m glad to see there is an increase in that area because to a good extent, with more of an investment in economic development, hopefully we can reduce the office vacancy rate of 25-plus percent. That, at least potentially, means more income coming in to the city,” Herling said.
The budget also pledges $5,000 more for security cameras at the city’s animal control facility. Several council members expressed approval for this expenditure, especially in light of a person or persons anonymously leaving 27 cats and kittens in front of the facility during hours it was closed this past weekend.
“I am very glad we are putting these security cameras in at the animal control facility. This past weekend certainly proved it (is needed),” Davis said.
Councilwoman Silke Pope agreed, saying the cameras will also help employees there feel safer.
“They’re kind of tucked away back there. Even though they are next to the police, they are not always around outside, so I think it’s just a safety issue in general,” she said.
The council also voted to spend an additional $4,000 for concrete repairs throughout the city. Davis said infrastructure investments like this are an important part of the city council’s plan for improving quality of life for citizens.
“We are taking care of our infrastructure needs and some very necessary repairs,” she said. “We do talk about the bricks and mortar infrastructure, but the green infrastructure is important to Greenbelt as well. So when we talk about infrastructure it’s the whole total package that we deal with.”
Mayor Emmett Jordan also spoke on the importance of investing in infrastructure. But he cautioned that as the city continues to expand, more money will need to be spent to maintain the growing number of facilities supported by taxpayers.
“We’ve got so many roads, we have so many buildings, so many facilities, more than most other municipalities our size. What that means in the long run, though, is we have to make sure we adequately fund those facilities. As they age it gets more expensive to maintain them. If we want to continue with the level of services that we have, we have to find ways to grow the tax base if possible, and also invest in infrastructure so that we can maintain the quality of life,” he said.
The budget also funds merit and cost of living adjustments to city employees’ pay. McLaughlin said the council has always treated its employees very well and thanked them for taking such care.
“On behalf of the employees, I thank you for your support and consideration of this pay increase. This year, and in past years, since it’s been a very tough time since the recession, you’ve always worked hard to make available for the employees whatever could be done,” he said.