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Hyattsville council makes more additions to budget

HyCouncil 02HYATTSVILLE – The bottom line on the proposed Hyattsville fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget just got a little larger after the city’s council voted to add even more items to the list of desires.

The council met on April 26 in a modified regular meeting that focused heavily on proposed expenditures in the city’s future. That discussion included the acceptance of a contract with Toole Design Group to conduct a city-wide traffic study at the cost of $250,000, signing a memorandum of understanding with the Maryland State Highway Administration for the city to contribute $145,000 to the MD500 road enhancement project and a discussion about the future of city facilities.

However, the items added to the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year revolved around smaller projects and community-based events. In total, the additions amount to $7,000.

“These were items that weren’t submitted in time for the initial preparation of the budget, so we are doing an amendment at this moment to get them into the draft budget for FY18,” Mayor Candace Hollingsworth said.

The additions to the budget started with a request from Councilman Patrick Paschall for $1,000 in “city sponsorship and support” of the bi-annual Hy-Swap. The Hy-Swap is a one-day event held in the fall and the spring that allows families from Hyattsville to pick out and take home donated clothes and children’s items for free.

“This year’s event was a huge success,” Paschall said. “They served substantially more families than in years past, literally handed out thousands of pieces of clothing and toys and shoes and children’s gear and maternity clothing, for free to the public and I think this is a worthy cause.”

The councilman said the funds, which are reflective of discretionary funds the council has given to the events previously, would go toward helping keep the event going.

“It is still a loss to the organizers. They’re still paying out of pocket to be able to put the event on, but they’re able to supplement the city’s funding with donations at the door,” he said.

Councilman Robert Croslin asked if the city had used discretionary funds for the event before, which they had, but Paschall said he would like the event to be budgeted for, rather than making its funding dependent on discretionary funds being available.

Shani Warner, the Ward 3 councilwoman, agreed and said the Hy-Swap is a perfect example of a project initiated by residents that has gone on to be successful and reflect well on the city. However, she said the city should be cautious about how it hands out money for fear of every organization wanting similar support.

The $1,000 addition was unanimously approved and will designate the event as “city-sponsored.”

The second and third additions were at the request of Councilman Joseph Solomon and the city’s health and wellness committee. The committee, of which Solomon is the council liaison, made two requests for funds from the council that initially totaled $16,000. Those funds would cover the costs for a Hyattsville welcome packet for a lecture series on the health impacts of climate change.

“This initially came for discussion. There were a few items that the council asked the committee to take into consideration and they did,” Solomon said.

Though the ideas of both requests were received well by the council, the price tag of each was cause for debate. Paschall and Councilman Bart Lawrence both shared reservations about the quantity of packets proposed for printing and the fact that the proposal includes mailing one to each household in the city. That is 8,500 packets.

“I am concerned with 8,500 of them being printed and sent into homes, would end up with a majority, at the least, sort of thrown away,” Paschall said. “I’d like to vote for it, but I’d like to vote for it at a lower number with a lower distribution cost.”

Ultimately, the council agreed to a $5,000 budget for a beta launch of the welcome packet with the understanding that the health and wellness committee would take on the responsibility of creating and gathering the content and have a project plan in place before funds are released.

Members of the council also expressed concerns with the budgetary implications of the lecture series proposed by the committee. The ask was for $2,000, though it did not have an exact plan on how the funds would be spent or what speaker would be considered.

“I hate not to be enthusiastic about this but I think this does fall into the category I was describing before of being something that isn’t thought out to a point that I understand why we really should fund it,” Warner said. “I really appreciate the enthusiasm in the request for funding from this new committee but I feel that we have the cart before the horse.”

Solomon said the funds would cover three or four speakers and event-associated costs like advertising and food.

Besides the initial price tag, some on the council also noted that the environmental committee also requested funding for a lecture series on climate change. Councilman Edouard Haba said even though the health and wellness committee feels that the topics are different, they should still consider partnering with the other committee on the lectures.

In addition, Warner said she does not think there is enough interest to sustain large turnouts for both the environmental committee’s two or three climate change lectures and the three or four proposed by the wellness committee.

In the end, Solomon made an amendment to his proposal and asked for only $1,000 for one or two lectures with a promise that the heath committee would consider partnering on other events. That was passed.

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