Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides delivered his third State of the City address to the Annapolis City Council last night. In the address, he lauded his achievements for helping businesses expand, filling potholes, replacing bus shelters, and working with the County on various initiatives. However, his strongest point was that his last two budgets were accomplished without the need to raise any property taxes and vowed to deliver a third without raising taxes. However the budget will come with a cost–he intends to cut services and raise some fees. Pantelides has been wrestling with some negotiated contracts that were executed shortly prior to his taking office–and he pointed out that former Mayor Josh Cohen essentially handcuffed him for four years.
Rate increases for trash, water, and sewer
The details of the budget were not available, but looking at the 2017 Budget Proforma it seems that residents should prepare for increased trash fees (or further reduced service), increased water fees, and increased trash fees. During his campaign, Pantelides had vowed to roll back increases implemented by Mayor Cohen, however none of them have materialized. Revenue from water fees is budgeted to increase nearly $500,000 which will translate to somewhere between $40 and $50 per household per year. Sewer fees are also scheduled to increase by $1.2 million. Based on 11,000 households this will translate to approximately $110 per year additional. Trash collection fees are scheduled to increase approximately $400,000. It is unknown if this is a built in escalation in the agreement (our trash was outsourced) or an increase in the fees. But again, based on 11,000 households in the city, trash removal will increase and additional $38 per year.
The Mayor lauded the creation of an Economic Development position within the City which is a shared position with the County. In his address, the Mayor cited that they had helped 236 businesses open or expand in the City. However, according to the proposed budget, there appears to be a net loss to the City. The Personal Property Tax is a tax levied on businesses in the City. This, along with real estate taxes make up the lion’s share of income for the City. In the 2016 budget, personal property taxes were $3, 707,500. In 2017 they are forecast to be $3,457,500 which indicates a $250,000 reduction or 7%. It appears that the new and expanding businesses are not keeping pace with the ones that are shuttering, or more likely moving.
The Mayor has put forth several initiatives that will assist in regaining the City’s financial foothold. He pulled the trigger on the Annapolis Renewable Energy Park that will return $5 million to City coffers over a 20 year lease. This was a project dreamt up for Former Mayor Ellen Moyer and was squashed by the City Council. The Mayor has placed some solid leadership on the Housing Authority of Annapolis (HACA) Board which should help to turn around the beleaguered organization. He has streamlined the permitting process for construction, and he is in the process of trying to convince the Council to eliminate 2 departments and merge them with others in order to “right size” them, despite a promise of no job losses.
The Mayor was silent on the elephant in the room–Crystal Spring. He campaigned against Crystal Spring when he was running for the office and was shown in a video unequivocally stating that he would stop it. Subsequently he has backtracked and said that he did not really mean “stop” but meant to reduce it in scope. The project has been revised at least 4 times in the past three years. There is a renewed effort from environmentalists to stop the project entirely. However, with the Mayor in the third year of his first term, it is likely there will not be much movement on this project until after the election in 2017.
The Mayor also announced that he will be holding several town hall meetings to discuss his budget. The dates, times, and locations of these meetings have not been determined yet. Expect to have at least Alderman Ross Arnett to also hold several meetings on the budget as well.
From here, the Council will review the budget and make amendments, changes, etc. The budget must be passed by the start of the next fiscal year which begins on July 1, 2016.