5 Things About Annapolis' 2013 Budget
Parking fees downtown, new city employees and changes to the constant tax levy rate were all changed in the new operating budget for the city that starts July 1.
The Annapolis City Council unanimously approved its fiscal year 2013 operating budget Monday night—marking the first time Alderman Frederick Paone (R-Ward 2) has voted in favor of a budget since being elected.
"I’ll be honest, I’ve never voted for a budget before; I’ve never found one that I found to be acceptable," Paone said. "This is the best budget I’ve voted on in the four years I’ve voted."
After its passage Mayor Josh Cohen took a moment to congratulate the council members and praise the work of the finance committee. He said while he didn't agree with all the changes made to his proposed budget, it was still a "good step forward."
So, now that the new budget is set to take effect July 1, here's a look at what changes will affect day-to-day life in Annapolis.
1. Parking fees to rise downtown
The hourly rate paid by residents and visitors at parking meters downtown will now be $2 per hour rather than the current rate of $1 per hour, said Alderman Ross Arnett (D-Ward 8).
The base rate for parking garages will also be raised from $5 per hour to $6 per hour.
Alderman Ian Pfeiffer (D-Ward 7) said this reflected an ongoing effort to figure out how to generate revenue at city-owned garages that are outside the immediate downtown area.
"Hillman Garage is always in greatest demand," Pfeiffer said.
These changes will net the city $840,000 in additional revenue, according to the Finance Committee's budget documents.
Pfeiffer emphasized to Annapolis Patch after the council meeting that parking downtown will still be cheaper than other cities in the area.
2. Some contractors will be new city employees
Despite the protests of Paone, approximately 10 city employees currently working under contract will now be full time. That means they will be eligible for health benefits, retirement planning and pensions.
Paone said he didn't think any of the conversions should happen.
"If this is not an acceptable situation to an employee, they can leave," Paone said. "If you don't want to work on contract, don't do it."
Paone said he would rather reward good work by contract employees by giving pay raises.
The new city employees not be provided civil service protections—which means they serve at the pleasure of the government.
3. Community and Capital Grants remain intact
The council voted 7-1, with Paone being the lone holdout, to continue to allocate $250,000 in Community Grant Funds for local charities.
"This is the third year in a row that we are seeking to borrow money so that we can give out grants. That makes no sense," Paone said. "If we had the money I would be urging my colleagues to approve a reasonable amount for each and every one. I don’t think a reasonable person would expect anyone to borrow money so they can go give it to someone else."
During the public comment portion of the council meeting, Historic Annapolis Foundation Chair Joe Rubino urged council members to continue the Community Grant Fund allocation.
He said his foundation runs an after-school program that teaches children about Annapolis' historic heritage and without a grant from the city, the program would have to be cut.
The Capital Grants Fund was shifted from the bond budget into the operating budget for fiscal year 2013. It is still allocated the same amount of $260,000 annually, but it means that the city won't be financing it with long-term debt going forward, said Cohen.
Paone supported the change, and the proposal passed unanimously.
4. Constant tax levy increased
The constant tax levy to be assessed on property owners in Annapolis was raised to 64 cents per $100 of value—8 cents above the current rate—for the fiscal year 2013 budget.
Cohen said that while it was an increase, it still represented a constant levy.
Once again, Paone was the lone no vote.
5. Mayor's takeaway
Cohen said the most important part of the fiscal year 2013 budget is the compromises made on both sides in order to come to an agreement with the four public-employee unions over contracts.
"I'm pleased at what the negotiating team was able to accomplish," Cohen said.
Raising the retirement age for police and fire from 20 years to 25 years was a move that Cohen said "pushed the envelope" because Baltimore County is the only other force in Maryland that has a retirement age set as high as 25 years.
Cohen said it represents a delicate balance of trying to maintain a competitive offer for would be officers while addressing the city's long-term liabilities.
Alderman Matthew Silverman (D-Ward 5) voiced his concerns about how this could affect recruitment of new hires. He said potential firefighters and police officers could be lured away from Annapolis because they don't want to serve an additional five years before being eligible for retirement.
The fiscal year 2013 Budget Report can be viewed attached to this article as a PDF or on the city's website.