Rockville battles budget woes

Rockville Seal

ROCKVILLE – Residents and community representatives spoke out Monday night in the last public hearing before the City Council passes the Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

City Manager Robert DiSpirito proposed a $129.4 million operating budget, which would be a 2.5 percent increase from last year’s. DiSpirito proposed to keep the city’s taxes for real property and personal property the same as last year’s.

The city manager said he did not have as much influence over the budget as he would like, given that he started in Rockville long after the city began to craft its budget.

“I’m a Johnny-come-lately on the process, definitely,” said DiSpirito, who started as city manager in January.

Dispirto replaced acting City Manager Craig Simoneau in January, who took over the position after the city fired its previous city manager, Barbara Matthews.

“I came in the middle of the budget process, so I just kind of fell out of the sky … a process that literally started last year in August.”

Taxes will remain the same this fiscal year, with real property taxes levied at 2.92 cents for $100 of assessed value and personal property taxes remaining at 8.05 cents.

Like the County’s budget, Rockville’s will have a bit more in tax revenues thanks to increased assessments on property values. DiSipirto said the extra $2.5 million in property and income tax would be used in part to hire three more police officers, which would cost the city $315,210.

At Monday night’s City public hearing on the budget, community leaders asked the City Council and mayor to fund a number of programs, including ones to help the homeless, food for hungry people and science education and outreach.

Bob Ekman, president of the board of trustees for the Rockville Science Center, asked the council for a $5,000 increase to the $50,000 in the city’s budget for the science center.

“In 2017 we will reach thousands of Rockville residents from preschool age to seniors,” Ekman said. We provide a wide range of [science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related] activities to prepare students for science and technology careers.”

While DiSipirto does not propose any major changes to the budget from last year, the ultimate decision will be up to the council on what to fund. Although DiSpirto suggested keeping taxes level and using funds from a now-vacated position at City Hall to hire three additional police officers, the City Council can go in a different direction if it chooses.

Monday night was the last public hearing on the FY ’18 budget. Residents have until Friday to submit comment for the record before the council votes on the budget May 1.



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