Rockville’s Looming Budget Challenges

By Mark Pierzchala, last updated 4/10/14 07:50am

Photo credit Helen Triolo, Local First Media  

This is the third 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.

[Photo: 4/9/14 - King Farm Farmstead Park, Helen Triolo]

While forming a budget for the next Fiscal Year, it is a good idea to keep in mind capital needs for which there is inadequate funding. The City’s proposed FY15 Proposed Capital Improvements Program lists 13 partially or fully unfunded projects on page 8. These include improvements for road, facilities, and parks.

There are also 2 looming challenges not listed that deserve special mention. These concern the King Farm Farmstead and Rockville’s water utility.

The King Farm Farmstead is an historic site comprising 8 agricultural buildings on approximately 7 acres forming an attractive northern gateway to the City (see this February 10, 2014 Mayor & Council agenda item). The buildings are outwardly well kept but are deteriorating. Part of one building is used by a non-profit while the others sit empty. Only the house and one out building have water, electricity, and sewer. The FY 2012 adopted budget estimated a cost of $16.7 million to fully refurbish the site. Mayor and Council have toured the site and may form a task force to propose alternatives; this would be the second such task force.

Rockville’s water utility provides water for about 70% of the City. Several years ago, the City embarked on a project to replace aging and defective pipes. The goal and need is to execute a constant 100-year cycle of pipe replacement. There are additional concerns with aging water towers and the continual upgrading of the City’s water plant, required by wear and tear and by Federal mandate. Relatively few accounts cover expenses resulting in large rate increases. City staff calls the fund’s prospects “troubling”. A consultant has been hired to give Mayor and Council alternatives this fall.

Both projects are too large to fund by traditional methods without impinging on other needs. Each requires a custom solution and each is an obligation that will not go away. For the King Farm Farmstead for example, historic designation, deed covenants, lack of utilities, cost, and neighborhood objections could get in the way of a private-public partnership. For the water utility, a solution may be for the City to fully or partially get out of the water business. Officials will have to keep an open mind to solve both.

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

Filed under Around Town

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