College Park residents' property taxes will not increase in fiscal 2019, city officials said Thursday night.
District 1 Councilman Fazlul Kabir made the announcement to some 20 residents at an annual budget compound meeting, held by council members from Districts 1 and 4, during which they explained highlights of the proposed budget to residents and allowed them to ask questions. It's a tradition for the meeting to be led by only District 1 and District 4 council members, Kabir said, though some of their colleagues had joined in the past.
Of the city's proposed $20.6 million budget for fiscal 2019, the largest funding source is real estate property taxes, accounting for $9.4 million — or 46 percent — of the budget, according to the proposal. That's followed by other taxes, which make up $4.4 million, or 21 percent, of the budget.
Kabir said property taxes could be raised to be above the current rate of roughly 33 cents per $100 of assessed value. But the state found the city's Constant Yield Tax Rate — the rate for the following year that will generate the same amount of revenue as in the current tax year, according to the proposal summary — to be the same, so officials decided to maintain the status quo.
This follows City Manager Scott Somers's recommendation not to raise the rate, Kabir said.
Other proposed budget items for youth, family and senior services included $50,000 for a part-time volunteer coordinator working 25 hours per week and $18,000 to support senior social events, District 1 Councilwoman Kate Kennedy said.
District 4 Councilwoman Denise Mitchell was one of multiple council members to discuss funding for Meals on Wheels, a program that delivers food, which she thought "should be fully funded at whatever cost they need to make it work."
Kennedy also said she would like to advocate for the program to receive more funding, calling it "really important."
Resident Marci Booth said unnecessarily large amounts of money were allocated to the Boys and Girls Club, the College Park Arts Exchange and the University of Maryland's IFC-PHA on-campus tailgates, which she derided as "helping the college police their children — no offense — while they're drinking." She asked the council to tell her at a later date whether these funds could instead be redirected to Meals on Wheels.
The proposed fiscal 2019 budget currently allocates $39,000 to the College Park Arts Exchange, $12,500 to the Boys and Girls Club and $10,000 to the Interfraternity Council Tailgate Program, while awarding $6,500 to Meals on Wheels.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a program geared toward helping senior citizens, received its $11,500 funding request from the city, but some residents said the group shouldn't help seniors only.
"It's for everybody. You can be 20 and need help," said Carol Macknis, who attended the meeting.
CORRECTION: Due to an error, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that there was a budget item regarding animal shelter compliance. That item is not on the FY2019 budget. This story has been updated.