State of The City Address - March 10, 2014

STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS – MARCH 10, 2014 

Good evening.

I come to you tonight to say there is a change taking place in Annapolis.

Not radical change, but concise, methodical, deliberate change that will benefit the citizens of Annapolis.   I came into office three months and 7 days ago.  I met with each department director and discussed my vision for Annapolis over the next four years.

While we will change the way we do business in City government, my promise to you is… we will create change by providing essential, critical city services, update crumbling infrastructure… both brick and mortar as well as critical technological infrastructure, be available and accessible, be transparent and create a budget that lives within our means…. without raising taxes! 

This budget is a coordinated effort to do what is best for the City, and I will work side-by-side with the Alderpersons throughout the budget process to ensure unnecessary spending stops and critical services continue.  

The Alderpersons and I have made it clear that we CAN work together, and will work together, not only on this budget but on future legislation benefiting the citizens of Annapolis. 

This budget is about making the tough decisions to ensure our fiscal house is in order and that we are not living above our means or our income.

Like all of you, sitting at your kitchen table or in your home office, you strive to balance your family’s needs with the family’s income… all the while, looking toward the future, knowing you must put money aside for your future.

My proposed FY 2015 budget does the same thing. Our long-term goals are to continue to fund unprecedented agreements between city government and our four unions.  The results of Interest Based Bargaining, or IBB as it is known, address long-term, unfunded liabilities and insure the integrity of our Public Safety retirement plan and previously unfunded health care.

We finally fund a critical need that has been long overlooked and neglected for years, but it does have a budgetary impact of $2 million with an additional fiscal impact of 2.1 million in FY 16 and 2.3 million in FY 17.

I am trying to pay our bills, offer the citizens high quality service they demand and deserve, while addressing long-term liabilities, which is increasing my budget by more than $2 million this year. That along with increased costs of health insurance of $340,000, increased debt service totaling $2 million, increased workers compensation claims of more than $403,000, and a million dollar decrease in reimbursements from the enterprise fund, have combined to increased our budget by $8.3 million.

Simply said… If I don’t add a single new item to the budget, the FY15 operating budget will be $ 8.3 million LARGER than last years $95.6 million. That is an 8.7 % increase…. without a single enhancement, addition or hire. 

Let me say this one more time… if I do not make one change to this budget…. I will be proposing a budget $8.3 million above last year’s budget… one that grew in the Cohen Administration from $80.1 million dollars in 2011 to more than $103.9 million…. If I do nothing!

I asked each department director to go through their budgets and find ways to show a 10% budget reduction in their individual departments. While I know this level of cuts would not be sustainable… it was an intellectual exercise that was needed to offer options.

For example: Cutting 10% off the top of the police department, or to make it personal – laying off 17 police officers…still increases the  police department budget by $363,000.

For the record, my proposed budget does not cut any of our sworn public safety employees, as we depend on these outstanding men and women daily to keep our families, our businesses and our homes safe from fire, crime and medical emergencies.  Would Police Chief Pristoop, Fire Chief Stokes and the men and women of our police and fire departments please stand up and be recognized.  

I am also investing in the safety of our Police Department, by funding matching funds to build a new Firing Range. The current range has been condemned and bullets were ricocheting back on the officers.  The City will commit $250 thousand and I am  optimistic the state will grant us the additional $250 thousand to complete the $500,000 project.

Through the 10% cut exercise… we also identified departmental inefficiencies and the burden of increased workers compensation claims, costing the city $1.1 million. We will be conducting an independent management review to evaluate our procedures and processes to make recommendations to reduce these costs.

In order to balance this budget, we must cut at least $ 7.3 million dollars. This is why I have had to come to the difficult decision of proposing furloughs.  Like in the past, we will go back into negotiations with our city’s 4 unions to achieve $1.8 million dollars in salary cost savings. 

While making the decision to implement furloughs is always difficult, it was a much more complex and emotional task to recommend laying off 13 employees and to cut 20 vacant positions.

While we are addressing, head-on, the heavy burden of long-term liabilities and overspending …..It is important to point out that we also discovered:

  1. Significant cost savings though unfilled vacancies. By leaving these positions unfilled, we saved an additional $883,000 dollars.
  2. We are reducing overtime, creating a cost savings of $230,000 a year.

Change includes being able to realize our strengths and our weakness.   The recent citizen survey was an eye-opener because according to the summary… people like our employees, they like our services, but they don’t like City government as a whole.  As elected officials, we need to do a better job.

I am working toward that goal through a number of initiatives: 

  1. My open door policy – where residents can come in the first Tuesday of each month and talk about questions and concerns.  I have really enjoyed this process, because not only am I able to be face-to-face with constituents, but because often times the people coming in are offering me ideas on new programs or projects.  This open door policy has brought in everyone from business owners to retired residents, and each one is an opportunity for me to learn more about my home town, while understanding the needs of the people that I was elected to serve.
  2. Constituent outreach – With my small, but incredibly knowledgeable and professional staff, this administration will utilize these individuals as representatives of this administration as they attend civic, faith-based, non-profit and organizational meetings around the city.  They will be available for meetings with the public and work as liaisons with the various departments to help resolve concerns that citizens may have.
  3. The City has implemented a new system that makes transparency in government more…well… transparent and accessible.  Anyone with an internet connection can watch government meetings live on a computer or mobile device. Users will also be able to access archived meeting videos along with relevant supporting materials, including staff reports, meeting agendas and minutes. Additionally the content will be keyword searchable, making the process of finding information much easier. All meeting videos will be time-stamped to allow viewers to skip directly to the agenda item of interest.
  4. The language bank – while this is not new, it has been out of commission for many years. This is a list of 61 residents that speak 23 different languages, ranging from Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese and Italian. They offer their services to the City, to organizations, and to individuals that may need help understanding a form or application.  Heidi Zech was the creator of the Language bank years ago. She has been working with members of my staff to get it up and running again with the goal of being online by the end of April. 

Speaking of April…..I hope you are all enjoying the spring-like temperatures today in Annapolis!  Just last Monday the City was closed due to a winter storm!  Yes, Emergency Operations Center activated… and our Public Works department deployed 13 crews, working 12 hour shifts to dig us out and keep Annapolis residents safe.  I had the opportunity to ride around with them and witnessed first hand the harsh conditions they endure with no thanks, or pat on the back… so….   Would DPW director David Jarrell and all DPW employees in our audience tonight, please stand so we can all thank you for your hard work and commitment to our city. 

One of my priorities is Economic Development. My administration values the hard work of the Annapolis Economic Development Corporation and I look forward to the opportunities presented by the AEDC to support our strong business climate.

 My other priority is to protect the historic charm of downtown Annapolis, while addressing long overdue infrastructure issues such as the new Water Treatment Plant and the Bulkhead Replacement.

  • This budget includes funding for a cultural landscape survey to preserve the historic charm, which was recommended by HPC.
  • The bulkhead replacement project is funded in the amount of $6.5 million for design and construction this fiscal year.  It includes $5million of City CIP funding and a $1.5 million Federal grant. The replacement of will stretch around Ego Alley (along Dock, Main and Compromise Streets) to the southeast corner of Donner parking lot.   The work will take place during the winter months, between the 2015 Fall Boat Show and the 2016 Spring Boat Show.
  • As part of my commitment to address infrastructure needs we will continue to invest $2 million to annual roadway paving programs and $600 thousand to sidewalk repair.
  • In addition, we will continue to replace our old water and sewer pipes by investing $1.9 million in our water distribution system and an addition $2.4 million for our sewer collection system.

While these are the brick and mortar challenges, we also need to address critical technological infrastructure that includes upgrading our email and increasing the storage capacity of our online documents.  The City of Annapolis is moving to the Internet "cloud" based Google e-mail and associated Google Docs applications.

As you all know, the environment is a priority and one that campaigned on.  It is my goal to ensure the city is spending its stormwater fund in the most responsible way, to help reduce the pollution that is discharged into the bay.  Better said… I will see that the money allocated from the stormwater utility fee ... will be used for stream restoration and other worthy restoration projects.

In an effort to maintain and improve our credit objectives, this budget is responsible and resourceful.  Therefore, the following are some of the highlight from my proposed FY15 budget:

This is a proposed $96.6 million dollar operating budget and a $15.8 million capital budget.

Key Goals of the operating budget include:

  • Funds our commitment to IBB to address long-term unfunded liabilities, and ensure the integrity of our public safety retirement plan, as well as the previously unfunded retiree health care obligation. 
  • Provides critical services to our citizens with no tax increase
  • Allocating $1 million to the fund balance, upping the total to nearly $20 million

The budget also:

  • Leaves numerous positions vacant, saving the city more than $800,000
  • Requires no short-term borrowing
  • Includes  $7.3 million in cuts

The Capital budget includes:

  • The Police Department Firing Range – need to ensure the protection of our police officers during training procedures.  The current range has been condemned and bullets were ricocheting back on the officers.  The City will commit $250,000 and are optimistic a state bond bill grant of $250,000 will be realized for a total budget of $500,000.
  • A $4 million commitment to rebuild the condemned maintenance facility on Spa Road
  • A $2 million commitment to annual roadway paving program and $600 thousand to sidewalk repair.
  • Replace our old water and sewer pipes by investing $1.9 million in our water distribution system and an addition $2.4 million for our sewer collection system.