The City of Aberdeen’s $30.5 million budget for fiscal 2019 was adopted Monday, by unanimous vote of the mayor and City Council.
Property taxes remain the same at $0.6502 per $100 of assessed value of real property and $1.70 per $100 of personal property, according to budget Ordinance 18-O-11.
Water and sewer rates, which were increased last year, will remain unchanged at $19.09 for up to 3,500 gallons and $5.77 for every 1,000 gallons after that for water use. The sewer rates will remain at $23.65 for the first 3,500 gallons and $6.74 per 1,000 gallons additional, according to the ordinance.
The overall budget, which covers general government operations such as police and public works, capital projects and the water, sewer and Ripken Stadium enterprise funds, is $1.46 million lower than the $32.03 million budget adopted for the current fiscal year.
The largest decrease is happening in the capital projects fund, which is going from $3.88 million this year to $2.14 million next year, according to budget documents.
The sewer fund will decrease by more than $400,000, whereas the general fund will increase by $53,910, the water fund by more than $610,000 and the stadium fund by $26,900, according to the budget.
Resident Bob Hartman questioned, during the public comment period of the meeting, increases in two areas of the budget. He asked about debt service, which is $658,180 in for principal and interest payments next year, compared to $469,636 this year, according to the budget.
Mayor Patrick McGrady said that is because the city has changed how it lists police vehicle purchases in the budget — rather than purchase new vehicles and list them as a capital expense, the city is entering into five-year leases with an option to own and listing the expense in debt service.
“It’s just a financial thing,” the mayor said. “It’s not an actual increase.”
Hartman also questioned increased legal expenses. Legal services spending will increase by $65,000, from $116,000 to $181,000, according to the budget.
“We’ve had a lot of legal fees, and so we’re budgeting for them,” McGrady replied.
Aberdeen officials have been working extensively with City Attorney Frederick Sussman and their bond counsel over the past year on matters such as ensuring the city does not violate federal laws regarding tax-exempt construction bonds used to finance building Ripken Stadium as it moves ahead with managing manage non-baseball events at the ballpark.
McGrady also offered an amendment Monday to remove $225,000 budgeted for repairing curbs and sidewalks along West Bel Air Avenue downtown. The city is contributing money to replace decorative brick pavers as part of the State Highway Administration’s planned resurfacing of West Bel Air between Paradise Road and Route 40.
He did not get a second on his amendment from any council members, though, so it did not move forward.
The mayor argued that there are many other capital projects in the city in need of funds, and there are “a lot of parts of the community that don’t have any sidewalks.”
“To replace sidewalks that are perfectly functional because State Highway is doing a project on West Bel Air Avenue, I find objectionable, but if there’s no second, okay,” McGrady said.
The issue was discussed in greater detail during a work session before the council meeting.
City Manager Randy Robertson said he has heard complaints about the decorative brick pavers becoming slick and icy. Phyllis Grover, director of planning and community development, said the bricks were installed 25 years ago in partnership with the SHA to enhance the appearance of downtown.
Grover said she noticed multiple cracks in the bricks while walking the sidewalks Monday morning, though.
“I would think, if there was one street in the whole entire city that would need sidewalks it would be Bel Air Avenue,” Councilwoman Sandra Landbeck said.
McGrady expressed concerns about needing $225,000 for other capital projects such as water and sewer improvements, “stuff that needs to happen.”
““Yes, it would be nice to have new sidewalks but I’m cautious about a recession happening in the near future, and I don’t want to be in a position where we spent all of our cash and we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to finance stuff without raising taxes next year,” he said.