Dear Ward 3 residents,
The Takoma Park City Council has a meeting tonight, Wednesday, May 19. There will be a closed session starting at 5:30, followed by the regular public meeting at 7:30. The agenda is below.
A big thank-you to the many Ward 3 residents who filled out the budget questionnaire I circulated several weeks ago. Your input helped me consider the reconciliation list and budget decisions and will continue to inform my perspectives moving forward. I received 75 responses to the survey with a range of perspectives and comments, which I will provide a thorough summary of in my next email.
Tonight the Council will vote on the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. The vote tonight will be to adopt a budget maintaining the same tax rate as this past year, 53.97 cents for $100 assessed valuation. Throughout this process, it has been important to me to maintain this tax rate while ensuring services and projects that emphasize the values and needs of our community.
As we went through the items on the budget reconciliation list, it was particularly important to me that we ensured funding for stormwater work to further opportunities to address flooding issues for residents, racial equity work, reimagining public safety work, and the climate change building benchmarking study. I am particularly excited about the funding we have included to move forward a community ambassadors/navigators program to improve outreach, information-sharing, and collaborations with residents who are current less connected to the government, and access in languages other than English. I also proposed funding to ensure the work that has been done to-date can move forward to install a plaque at the Heffner Community Center to acknowledge historical wrongs at that location and to rename Jackson-Boyd Park.
In the coming year, I anticipate we will need a Budget Amendment when we get the city's allotment of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds, which could total more than $14 million over two years. These funds will be important to addressing many needs related to and impacted by COVID.
It is of critical importance to me that we reimagine public safety to ensure racial equity and justice. The work of the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force has been ongoing, and we expect to receive a report with their recommendations this summer. I had hoped we would be in a place to make more changes during the budget process this spring, but we are still awaiting some of the specific recommendations that will help us ensure this is done in the best way possible. We can and should pursue changes during this budget year through ARPA funds and budget amendments. This spring, I also called for making some changes and carefully assessed the police budget to look for opportunities. As a result of my questions and urging, a reduction in fringe was identified that we were able to adopt into the budget. I also advocated for removing the K9 unit and voted to do so, but this initiative did not receive majority Council support to move forward at this time. Additionally, I advocated for moving code enforcement out of the police department. While these things were not done during the budget process, the resolution we are voting on to adopt the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget includes language on the Council's intent to reimagine public safety and notes the Council's intent to consider changes to the K9 unit and code enforcement.
City Manager Hiring
As many of you know, City Manager Suzanne Ludlow is retiring at the beginning of July. The Council has been continuing our work toward hiring a new City Manager. We will share information and updates on this process soon.