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Council Agenda: Pumphrey Parking Lot Hearing, Budget Briefing, City Manager Search

Tax credits for green buildings and homeowners are also up for discussion.

A hearing about a parking lot at the Robert A. Pumphrey Funeral Home and a presentation on the city budget highlight the Rockville City Council’s agenda for Monday.

The at . The meeting will be broadcast live on Rockville 11.

Pumphrey parking lot

A to grant Pumphrey the right to construct a parking lot on property adjacent the funeral home is drawing a lot of debate.

On Friday, Rockville Patch posted . Since then, Rockville Patch readers and West End residents have discussed the proposal in detail in below Moore’s call to action.

The council is scheduled to hear testimony at Monday’s meeting. The schedule calls for the public record to remain open for written testimony until April 2.

Budget briefing

The city’s finance department is scheduled to present a briefing on Rockville’s operating and capital budgets for fiscal 2013, which begins July 1.

The proposed operating budget is $107 million, a 0.2 percent decrease from fiscal 2012, according to a report from city staff. It includes a $65 million general fund—a 1.6 percent decrease.

The fiscal 2013 proposal keeps the real property tax rate at 0.292-cents per $100 of assessed value and includes no tax-supported borrowing, according to the report.

The decreases reflect a 6.2 percent—or $2.1 million decrease in property tax revenues vs. fiscal 2012. The decrease is due to a 4 percent write-down in the value of city properties reassessed in January.

“The City anticipates a similar reduction in assessed values after the January 2013 reassessments,” the report states.

City staff “have made every effort to reduce the City's costs without impacting current programs or service levels,” the report states. Among the efforts are a 10 percent reduction in overtime across all funds among employees citywide and a “continued suspension of the employee merit pay system,” the report states.

As proposed, the budget “does not allow for new programs, services or projects,” the report states.

The decrease in revenues could force the city to forgo several suggested, but as yet unfunded projects, including:

  • A $100 homeowners tax credit. (Cost: $1.5 million.)
  • A noise barrier between Interstate 270 and West End Park. (Cost: $111,000 in fiscal 2013 and $773,350 in future years.)
  • Improvements to . (Cost: $160,000.)
  • A Green Building Tax Credit. (Cost: $60,000.)
  • A transfer of $64,660 to the Art in Public Places program.
  • A bathroom on the first floor of the Arts and Innovation Center. (Cost: $40,000.)

The proposed operating budget includes:

  • A 1 percent salary increase for all regular employees.
  • A 4.9 percent increase in employee benefit costs in the general fund.
  • The elimination of $630,000 for in the general fund and the elimination of 9.8 fulltime positions for course employees. Both are results of .
  • A $27,000 increase to caregiver agencies supporting residents in need.
  • A $10,000 increase in funding to the .
  • Operating cost increases associated with opening the new city police station ($208,670) and expansion on ($24,020).
  • A cost of $164,000 to fund an agreement with Duball Rockville LLC. This is the first of six installments under an agreement between the city, the county and Duball. It will support Duball’s construction of a 384,897-square-foot building in Town Center that includes a Cambria Suites Hotel, residences and street level retail space in Town Center, according to a Jan. 30 staff report. The $984,000 from the city will supplement $3.18 million from Montgomery County.

Proposed utility rate hikes would lead to an increase of $51.16 per year ($4.26 per month) to the average city household’s utility bills, according to the report. The proposed rates include hikes to water (8 percent), sewer (9 percent) and stormwater management (26 percent) rates and to a service charge for water and sewer customers (20 percent). The refuse rate is proposed to decrease by 5 percent.

The proposed $75.1 million capital budget includes $27.7 million in new funding to support ongoing city infrastructure projects including:

  • Reconstruction of the Edmonston Drive vehicle bridge.
  • Pedestrian safety initiatives.
  • Improvements to the water treatment and water systems.
  • Sewer and stormwater management system improvements.
  • Playground and athletic field maintenance.
  • Infrastructure repair and replacement of existing city facilities.
  • Asphalt and concrete repairs.
  • Baltimore Road rehabilitation.
  • An annual in Southwest D.C.

Public hearings on the budget are scheduled for April 2 and May 7. Council work sessions are scheduled for April 16 and 30. Adoption of the budget is set for May 21.

Tax credits

Monday’s meeting also will include a discussion of a proposed green building tax credit.

City staff is recommending that the council pass an ordinance establishing the program. The council would have to set money aside in the fiscal 2013 budget to begin offering the credits.

If city dollars were available, the credit program would be piloted over five years, beginning in July with $60,000 in tax credits in the fiscal 2013 budget. Credits would go to commercial properties that make their buildings more environmentally friendly and energy efficient. The credits would increase to $300,000 in fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2017.

The credit is a priority for .  The chamber worked with the city Environment Commission and city staff to develop the proposed credit program.

The council also is scheduled to introduce a proposal to raise the eligibility level for the state’s homeowners’ property tax credit. The proposal would increase the maximum income eligible for the credit to $91,000 per year, with the credit applying to up to $495,000 of a home’s assessed value (from $85,000/$400,000).

The credit allows homeowners with a household net worth of less than $200,000 (not including the value of their home or certain retirement savings) to claim tax relief.

The average credit per household was $442 in fiscal 2011, according to a city staff report.

City manager search

Acting City Manager Jennifer Kimball is scheduled to give an update and timeline on the search for a new city manager, Marylou Berg, a spokeswoman for the city, said in an email.

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