La Plata coun­cil tack­les FY18 bud­get in first meet­ing

Maryland Independent - - News - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­ Twit­ter: @Tif­fIndyNews

Dur­ing a May 9 work ses­sion, the La Plata Town Coun­cil was hit with a pro­posed Fis­cal Year 2018 Bud­get that they must re­view and pass in three weeks.

The Town Trea­surer Robert Oliphant and Town Man­ager Daniel Mears pre­sented the pro­posed gen­eral funds and en­ter­prise funds in the FY18 Bud­get to the pre­vi­ous town coun­cil on April 11 and April 18. The pro­posed FY18 Gen­eral Fund Bud­get showed $7,784,140 in ex­pen­di­tures and trans­fers, re­flect­ing a 3.03 per­cent in­crease from the FY17 bud­get.

In a let­ter to the town coun­cil, Mears stated, “Each de­part­ment pre­pared their bud­gets and sat down with the town trea­surer and my­self to re­view the var­i­ous ser­vice ar­eas line-by-line, al­low­ing us to ask ques­tions, di­a­logue and work to­wards an al­lo­ca­tion of ex­pen­di­tures that works for each de­part­ment, the town’s over­all fi­nan­cial con­di­tion and to meet com­mu­nity ser­vice ob­jec­tives.”

On Tues­day, Oliphant and Mears helped bring the new coun­cil up to speed, start­ing with a dis­cus­sion about the FY18 bud­get en­ter­prise funds.

“In the en­ter­prise funds, staff is rec­om­mend­ing a re­duc­tion in the san­i­ta­tion fee of 5 per­cent,” Mears said. “Re­cy­cling is rec­om­mended to de­crease 17.21 per­cent due to the change in the re­cy­cling con­tract. Wa­ter rates are pro­posed to in­crease just over 11 per­cent, and sewer rates just over 4 per­cent. Stormwa­ter fees would re­main un­changed.”

The pro­posed FY18 bud­get shows san­i­ta­tion bud­get ex­penses of $1,181,570, which in­cludes funds for the pur­chase of a new trash truck. The sewer bud­get shows ex­penses of $5,276,615, which is lower than that of FY17. The wa­ter bud­get shows ex­penses at $1,042,895 for the next fis­cal year and the storm wa­ter fund has ex­penses of $324,115.

“The in­crease in costs as­so­ci­ated with the wa­ter and sewer fees is due to the in­creased cost of pro­vid­ing those ser­vices,” Mears said. “In the cur­rent fis­cal year the wa­ter rate had been bought down utiliz­ing some ex­ist­ing fund bal­ance, how­ever the in­crease needed last year is still needed for the up­com­ing fis­cal year.”

Robert Stahl, di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions, said a 3 per­cent in­fla­tion is not re­ally un­rea­son­able in sewer and wa­ter.

“We work very hard to meet all the cri­te­ria and we meet our dis­charge lim­its,” Stahl said. “Elec­tric­ity is a ma­jor part of our cost and it goes up ev­ery year. We still have to do ma­jor re­pairs at the plant and main­tain our elec­tric. Those are the big costs that we have.”

The coun­cil ap­pears to be fo­cused on how to cut costs in the FY18 bud­get.

“I don’t mind the 3 per­cent in­crease in cost of liv­ing, but when there is a 4 per­cent in­crease on one bud­get item and 11 per­cent on an­other, it’s get­ting too high,” said Mayor Jean­nine E. James. “When you are in the dou­ble dig­its sev­eral years in a row, some­thing has got to get bet­ter.”

“I would like to see what FY16 ac­tu­ally ended up be­ing, not only what it was pro­posed to be,” James said. “I would also like to see what a stan­dard util­ity bill would be for the res­i­dents with the rate de­crease in san­i­ta­tion. It may be that the rates in­crease but the res­i­dents are not pay­ing more.” Mears and Oliphant agreed. Mears said the staff is rec­om­mend­ing a rate re­duc­tion in garbage and re­cy­cling which is pos­i­tive news for the town.

“We’ve had some more con­trol as­so­ci­ated with those costs in the re­cy­cling con­tract. San­i­ta­tion has been pos­i­tive news for us for years. We’ve seen a num­ber of rate de­creases in that,” Mears said.

Oliphant and Mears also in­formed the coun­cil about the town’s adopted prop­erty tax rate for the up­com­ing fis­cal year re­mains un­changed and the pro­posed in­crease in law en­force­ment staffing for next year.

James said she would like to go over the bud­get one more time and bring back some sug­ges­tions for the town staff.

Oliphant said there are time con­straints on the FY18 bud­get.

“We are go­ing to work back­wards for ev­ery­body’s sake but we need to get the bud­get adopted and passed by June 13, to ev­ery­one’s sat­is­fac­tion,” Oliphant said.

Mears said the coun­cil also needs to squeeze in a pub­lic hear­ing and an ad­di­tional work ses­sion to dis­cuss the pub­lic hear­ing and pub­lic com­ments be­fore the bud­get’s adop­tion.

Coun­cil­woman Emily Mudd Hen­dricks sug­gested adding a work ses­sion on May 30 in or­der to fur­ther dis­cuss the bud­get and an­swer any lin­ger­ing ques­tions from the coun­cil. Mem­bers agreed.

Mears in­formed the coun­cil that bud­get ad­just­ments can still be made through­out the fis­cal year.

“There is some room for flex­i­bil­ity,” Mears said.

The coun­cil will be meet­ing again on Tues­day to dis­cuss the bud­get. A pub­lic hear­ing and adop­tion sched­ule will be cre­ated in or­der to have the bud­get com­plete by July 1, the start of the fis­cal year.

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