Sun Setting on City Budget Season
Despite missing self-imposed April 30 deadline, Hyattsville City Council very close to concluding 2013 budget process.
The Hyattsville City Council moved forward on a suite of four major budget measures, nearly bringing to a close four months of deliberations on the fiscal year 2013 budget.
Most notably, the city council passed a five-year, $9.1 million capital improvement plan by a vote of 7-3. Mayor Marc Tartaro, Council President Matt McKnight (Ward 3), Council Vice President David Hiles (Ward 2), Councilor Carlos Lizanna (Ward 4), Councilor Candace Hollingsworth (Ward 1) and Councilor Shani Warner (Ward 2) voted in favor of the measure.
Hiles praised the CIP as a list of "exciting prospects" for the city to explore over the next few years.
"There are some exciting prospects in FY13 for some good achievements for our community," said Hiles. "I'm excited about seeing the sustainability policy come into play and now thinking seriously about how we're going to spend money on things like fleet vehicles."
The CIP had been dogged by criticism from members of City Council. Voting against the measure was Councilor Ruth Ann Frazier (Ward 5), Councilor Paula Perry (Ward 4) and Councilor Tim Hunt (Ward 3).
Hunt complained that the CIP did not include costs related to the proposed streetscape improvements in University Hills.
"We should be operating on the assumption that if something is in the budget, it should get done," said Hunt. "I am hearing a bit of wishy-washiness on that."
He also argued at last night's meeting that plans to fund $4 million in renovations to the BB&T building on 3505 Hamilton Street with speed camera revenues was overly ambitious.
"In my opinion, it takes speed cameras out of the realm of being a public safety initiative and more in the realm of being a fundraising initiative," said Hunt at the meeting.
Responding to Hunt's critiques concerning the lack of a budget projection for the University Hills improvements, Tartaro said he was firmly committed to getting the project completed. Tartaro explained that he was uncomfortable putting a projected budget figure for the project in the CIP when there are yet no cost estimates.
"While I see your concern about putting 'TBD' in the budget, but my concern is that we all make a commitment to the project," said Tartaro. "Putting a number in there that we're guessing at is not responsible budgeting."
The city council also approved a first reading of the omnibus budget ordinance for 2013, which gathers all budgetary decisions for the next year under one measure.
The ordinance had originally been introduced by Tartaro as emergency legislation which would have required only one vote to become law. However objections over transparency and procedural appropriateness saw the measure amended, striking the emergency legislation clause.
Tartaro, in explaining his reason for submitting the measure as emergency legislation, reminded the city council that they voted in January to wrap up the budget process by April 30.
"It seems like we're not debating the content of the budget here, it seems like we're debating procedure," said Tartaro. "We have the opportunity to use the legislative tools in front of us to move things forward."
Hollingsworth agreed emphatically, but said the council's inability to meet a self-imposed deadline did not constitute an emergency, especially with two months left until the next fiscal year begins.
"It is about procedure and it is about process. The budget is one of council's primary duties," said Hollingsworth. "Don't establish a precedent of passing emergency legislation when there is truly not an emergency."
The vote to amend the measure, striking the emergency legislation language, succeeded with 6-3 vote. Frazier, Perry, Hunt, Hollingsworth, Warner and Winguard voted in favor of the amendment. Tartaro, McKnight and Hiles voted against it. Lizanne abstained from the amendment vote.
Then the vote to approve the budget measure on first reading passed 7-3, with McKnight, Hiles, Lizanne, Hollingsworth, Warner and Winguard voting in favor. Perry, Frazier and Hunt voted against the budget.
The budget measure will likely return to city council at next Monday's meeting for final approval.
The city council unanimously passed measures outlining next year's debt service funds and special revenue funds as well.
The city council meets again on Wednesday, May 2 to revisit redistricting. That meeting begins at 8 p.m. in the Hyattsville Municipal Building on Gallatin Street.