GREENBELT – Spring means warmer weather, but it also means the start of budget season for municipalities like Greenbelt, which saw its proposed fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget introduced at Monday night’s meeting. The overall budget totals $28.4 million, an increase of about $1.81 million over the current fiscal year, according to City Manager Nicole […]
GREENBELT – Spring means warmer weather, but it also means the start of budget season for municipalities like Greenbelt, which saw its proposed fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget introduced at Monday night’s meeting.
The overall budget totals $28.4 million, an increase of about $1.81 million over the current fiscal year, according to City Manager Nicole Ard. She provided a short briefing on budget highlights for the council before they tackle the full document in detail over the next two months.
“It seems like a very, very comprehensive, well-planned budget for next year with so many different areas of emphasis, so many things to do,” Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan said.
The city is not proposing an increase to the property tax rate or to recycling/waste fees. Instead, the budget growth comes from increased property value assessments, which are up 5.1 percent over FY17. However, those values are still lower than during FY10, Ard said.
“We’re on an upswing. It’s not where it was back in 2009 or earlier, but we are seeing our total assessed value increase. We’re at over $2 billion at this point,” Ard said. “We’re moving in the right direction. Single family homes, townhomes and condos are all seeing increased property assessments. Apartments, a slight increase.”
Ard said income tax receipts as well as hotel and motel tax receipts are also up over the current fiscal year. However, the city still faces problems with commercial property tax revenue, which fell another 1.1 percent in the current budget. Ard said the FBI headquarters could provide a jumpstart, but with the project delayed indefinitely, the city may need another plan.
“We have property owners who have expressed hesitancy over making improvements or long-term plans without knowing what will happen at Greenbelt Station,” she said.
The budget includes $116,000 for the council to use as they formulate an economic development strategy that will help them to work with businesses and attract them to the city.
While the FBI delay is a federal issue, state decisions have also had an impact on the city’s budget planning. Gov. Larry Hogan has signed an executive order stating that schools must not start before labor day and must end by June 15, resulting in a longer summer break. The city is attempting to fill that childcare gap for families, Ard said.
“One thing that folks may not be aware of: the school year will be changing, and the recreation department has proposed an expansion of our summer camp program to address that short period where our families may be without childcare this summer,” she said.
The city is also proposing to purchase four hybrid vehicles, as well as a new evidence van and new handguns for the police department. Other projects that receive funding in the budget include new welcome signage, implementing the recommendations from the Bus Stop Safety and Accessibility report and a health assessment for the city’s forest preserve.
A large part of the budget expenditure increase is due to employee-related expenses such as healthcare (4 percent increase, or $90,000) and a new minimum wage ($97,000 in additional expenditures). The city has also set aside $450,000 for merit and step pay increases for employees and a 2 percent cost of living adjustment raise.
The city’s proposed capital budget is $1.97 million, partially financed through a transfer of $700,000 from the general fund to the capital fund. Ard said the expenditure may seem high, but is not nearly enough to tackle the long list of capital needs Greenbelt has.
“There are significant infrastructure needs in the community, as you know. Given those limited resources for such a long time, projects have been deferred,” she said.
Projects proposed for funding this fiscal year include street resurfacing ($47,000), improvements to the Buddy Attick Park parking lot ($300,000), renovations including a new roof and boilers for the fitness and aquatic center ($425,000), a new playground at the community center, and a new street sweeper for the Four Cities to share.
The council now begins the process of amending and eventually adopting the budget. It will hold a series of work sessions and at least two public hearings. The first work session is set for April 3.
“City managers often say that a budget is like a roadmap, and to some extent it is,” Mayor Jordan said. “But it’s important to remember that it is a map, it’s not the actual territory, so some of the items that are brought up in the original proposal, council thinks about them very carefully. We may allocate additional funding to an area. We may bring up some ideas that aren’t on the table- that’s the way it usually happens.”