This is the 4th of a series of articles by former Rockville Councilmember Mark Pierzchala on how the budget process in Rockville works and how you can be involved in that process. Mark Pierzchala was a Rockville Councilmember from 2009 to 2013 and was known for his budgetary knowledge. During that time he was also on Rockville's Retirement Board and the board of Rockville Economic Development, Inc. He owns a small business and is a member of the Rockville Chamber of Commerce.
Two of the City’s scheduled 4 budget hearings were held on March 31 and April 7. Only a few people testified. At Community Forums I have seen, 2 citizens and 2 police officers advocated pay increases for the City’s Police Department. Mayor and Council held a work session on the operating budget (March 31) and on the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) budget (April 7).
The issues raised so far are not surprising. The need to replace the City’s water pipes and the resulting Water rate and fee increases was raised during the April 7 hearing and by Mayor Newton. The City will consider options for the Water Fund in the fall after a consultant’s report is finished.
Two other issues brought up concern the FY15 proposed pay increase by the City Manager (considered insufficient by the Fraternal Order of Police and the Administrative Employees) and a possible restoration of a $100 property tax credit for owner occupied dwellings (proposed by Councilmember Feinberg).
Both the proposed tax credit and the request for higher pay, considered separately, would force major changes in the City Manager’s proposed budget. Considered together, the two proposals conflict because both reflect large unplanned-for expenditures.
If Mayor and Council wish to fund either or both proposals they have to pay for them. Any tax-rate increase is off the table. Other ways to pay for these proposals ultimately include
- program cuts, which imply staff cuts,
- increase bonding for capital maintenance instead of using operating money,
- put off expenditures,
- reduce cash contributions to capital projects which implies more bonding or delay on capital projects,
- reduce General Fund transfers to the Parking Fund,
- increase revenue projections (which are conservative),
- reduce benefits or require larger staff contributions to benefits, or
- reduce the City’s cash reserves.
Each has drawbacks and each has impacts on future budgets.
These decisions will be made in late April or early May. In the meantime, there are 2 more hearings and work sessions on April 21 and 28. If history is a guide, we will see care giver agencies giving several presentations at one of these hearings, likely asking for more money.
In this series:
Posted April 24, 2014: Rockville's Budget: Something Has To Give
Posted April 10, 2014: Rockville's Looming Budget Challenges
Posted April 3, 2014: Understanding Rockville's Budget Books
Posted March 27, 2014: Rockville's Fiscal Year 2015 Budget