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Hyattsville takes deeper look at proposed budget increases

HyattsvilleMunicipalBuildingHYATTSVILLE – Hyattsville City Treasurer Ron Brooks thinks the proposed budget for the city is a solid one, but some on the council remain concerned about the city’s spending habits.

Last week, the Hyattsville City Council held a meeting on the proposed fiscal year 2018 budget and learned quickly, when asking about a number of increases, that all those small expenses and asks add up fast.

“We’ve increased particularly in paint and in signs. We’ve had to do a tremendous amount of sign replacement as well as additional painting of curbs, sidewalks, crosswalks. It all adds up,” said Lesley Riddle, the head of the city’s public works department.

Public works, which has proposed an increase of $139,000 to its budget, is not the only department in Hyattsville propositioning the council for a little more spending money. Across the board, departments are proposing more money for both increased services to residents and to update their supplies and materials, though only three made presentations to the council on April 12.

The community and economic development department, which includes code compliance, parking compliance, community development and geographic information services has a proposed total increase of $129,952. At the same time, the community services department is proposing $218,961 in increases for senior services, the call-a-bus program, recreation and communications.

In addition, the proposed capital improvements plan for fiscal years 2018-2022 includes a proposed $9.3 million for 2018 capital projects. That includes money for the start up of a bike share network (the city is still looking into contracting with M Bike), “place making” research and signage, road improvements, lighting projects, server and vehicle replacements and body cameras for the police force.

“It has been revised down by the tune of about $700,000,” Brooks said.

During the meeting last week, Councilman Thomas Wright had a number of questions about specific line items in the department’s budgets increasing. In particular, he pointed out a 217 percent increase in supplies and materials for the parking compliance budget, from $14,650 to $40,500.

Jim Chandler, the assistant city administrator, said those costs are based around the possible outcome of the residential parking legislation.

“A lot of that cost is projected cost on what it would take to re-launch residential parking. In terms of cost a lot of it is informational, either printing passes or sort of information pieces for residents,” he said.

Wright also asked about contracted services increases in the community services budget, as that line item jumped from $183,022 to $332,022. Community Services Director, Jake Rollow, said that increase is due to the costs of the cable coordinator, community survey, Americore Vista mentor program and the new senior meals program.

Although some councilmembers had initial reservations about increases in the budget, Councilwoman Shani Warner really wanted to know what compromises the department heads had to make and, if the city had the money, what else they would have wanted in the budget.

“I think you make a lot of tough decisions trying to keep the budgets down, but I’m wondering, what was it that was hardest to cut. Or if you mysteriously found an extra $100,000, what are you sad about not having in the budget?” she asked.

Rollow said he would have used extra money to make another full-time position that is currently proposed as a contract one and Chandler said his budget proposal are largely based on the possible funding needs created by future endeavors such as projects stemming from the results of the sustainability plan or future agenda items.

Riddle said her department is in desperate need of new and updated vehicles to carry out the city’s work.

“It’s really hard when you have vehicles that are fairly old,” Riddle said.

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