Trash Talk In Annapolis

| March 24, 2012 | 0 Comments
Coat of arms of Annapolis, Maryland

The Annapolitans For A Better Community has requested that we pass this information along to our readers:

Talkin’ Trash … Taxes … and More.

Annapolitans for a Better Community (ABC) is pleased to host the second in a series of “combined community association meetings”.

What:                  Talkin’ Trash … Taxes … and More: A Critical Look at Mayor Cohen’s FY 2013 Budget
Who:                   Alderman Ross Arnett , Chairman Finance Committee
When:                Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 7pm
Where:               Auditorium of Maryland Hall

This event is FREE and is open to all residents who are concerned about City services, sound fiscal management and the growing burden of increased property taxes.

The recession is over according to Mayor Josh Cohen.  This year he wants to hire more people, spend more money, borrow more money and pass on the cost to you.  In his 2013 budget, there was not one effort to reduce spending – his only action is to add another 10 cents per hundred to your taxes.  Remember the train wreck of 2 years ago and the much needed layoffs?  Well, Josh’s answer is to hire more people, increase water and sewer fees again …and you get to pay more in taxes.

Remember furlough days to reduce employee costs?   Those are gone now – meaning a pay increase to all City employees.

Our property assessments are down an average of 15%, according to the State Tax Assessor.  We thought we would get a break on taxes – but not if Mayor Cohen has his way.  He simply raises taxes. He even throws away a savings of $1.7 million per year by rejecting a far superior, lower cost solid waste proposal from Bates Trash Removal – the company that does our recycling now –  just because Josh wants to avoid the unpleasantness of a few layoffs.

Josh says we are on the “right track”.  Is this the track you want to follow for your city?  The “Josh track” means constantly increasing taxes, no spending reduction, – only increased spending year after year. The rest of us have cut back – but no cost cutting under Josh’s City budget.  For FY 2013 the Mayor’s Proposed Budget exceeds $100 million for the first-time ever … that’s an enormous amount for a City of 38,500 people.

If you missed seeing the “State of the City” report on COA-TV you also didn’t hear some of the “highlights” of his proposed Budget for FY 2013. Here are a few:

Property Tax Rate to Increase … Again.           Last year, the property rate increased from 53 cents per hundred of assessed valuation to 56 cents. This year, the Mayor has proposed another rate increase … to 65.83 cents per hundred. Overall, a 17.55% increase in the tax rate. Here’s how it works:

With the recent decline in property assessments, last year’s tax rate would have to increase from 56 cents to 62.2 cents (+6.2 cents/11%) for the City to collect the same amount of property taxes (this is the so-called “constant yield rate”). Then, just so the Mayor wants you to know he’s “always thinking about you”, he added another 3.08 cents to pay for his FY 2013 budget increases.

Comment:         With a decline in property values the City has two choices: cut expenses (something we all have to do in our daily lives when times are uncertain) … or raise taxes. The thought of cutting expenses was never considered by the Mayor and his administration.

City to Retain Refuse Collection.         Despite a unanimous recommendation from the Contract Evaluation Committee in favor of out-sourcing City Refuse Collection to a private contractor, the Mayor recommends retaining this service using City employees. The proposal received from Bates Trash Removal (the same contractor who provides the City recycling collection) would have provided the City with a staggering savings of more than $13 million over current costs during the 7 year term of the contract. Instead, the Mayor has side-stepped a lay-off of DPW employees in favor of keeping trash collection rates higher than they need to be.

Comment:         With the City in a constant financial struggle to keep its head above water, and with very few places to generate real savings, it is incomprehensible for the Mayor to throw away a huge savings by ignoring the unanimous recommendation of the Selection Committee he appointed!

City proposes to add 9 new FT positions and 2 PT positions.   New hires will include:   Assistant City Manager, Assistant City Attorney, 2 Staff Accountants for Dept of Finance, Deputy Property Maintenance Inspector (Permits), Automation Administrator (Police), Storm water Engineer (Env), Deputy Director for Transportation and an Assistant Harbormaster, plus PT employees: Election Administrator (Law) and a Camera Operator (Mayor’s office).

Comment:         Many of these positions will pay in excess of $100,000 and the total payroll additions, with health and pension benefits, is close to $1 million annually. Last year, the Mayor said “I don’t think the City work-force is large enough”.  With close to 600 employees, couldn’t the Mayor look for ways to consolidate or eliminate unnecessary positions?  With empty Circulator buses, what is the justification for a Deputy director of Transportation? Remember that we cut 33 positions in 2010, and despite the dire warnings, the City did not fall apart.

“Brother Can You Spare …”     The Police/Fire Pension Committee recently “urged” the City to contribute $8.3 million to fulfill its pension contribution commitment. The City has been ignoring payments into the Police/Fire Pension Fund for several years and there is an “unfunded liability” of more than $20 million. Against this, the City will pay $741,000 … less than 10% of the amount requested … and barely 4% of the unfunded amount.

More waste……. The Circulator Trolley will be expanded to Eastport … the City will expand a bus route to Edgewater’s Sojourner-Douglass College …City employees will no longer have to take any furlough days … 24 “contractual employees” will be converted to “permanent” adding $275,000 in benefit costs … even $20,000 to study “relocating” the Compromise Street playground. But … the City will pay just $200,000 into the OPEB Fund.

Comment:         If the Circulator was intended to shuttle drivers from the garages to downtown, what’s the purpose of a route through Eastport? The bus system is already bleeding almost $2 million in cash every year. How is a route to Edgewater justified? The OPEB Fund is for heath benefits and has an astronomical unfunded liability of more than $44 million: a payment of $200,000 vs $44 million obligation seems like a cruel joke.

If you are disgusted and outraged by the wasteful spending outlined in the Mayor Cohen’s FY 2013 Budget, please come to our next “combined community association” meeting on Tuesday, March 27, 7pm at Maryland Hall.  There are very specific places the City CAN cut spending and avoid a tax increase. We plan to review the Mayor’s Budget and propose specific cuts. A Panel of Experts will join Alderman Arnett to answer your questions.

Just like last year, the Mayor thinks he has all the votes he needs to push through another tax increase – by tapping your piggy bank he has no need to find any economies. If you are happy paying higher and higher taxes and fees, don’t bother to come to our next meeting.  But if you really want to see a better managed Annapolis … we need your help to take back our City and demand that the Council hold the line on spending.

We look forward to seeing you on March 27.

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