City Council unanimously approves 2020 budget

The Salisbury City Council on Monday unanimously passed its $62.37 million budget for fiscal 2020 with no new property tax or increased sewer rates.

The property tax rate remains at 0.9832 cents per $100 of assessed value. Property and personal taxes will raise $25.8 million in the coming year.

“The things we focused on were all a quality of life issues. We said that was one of our top priorities when I took office and I think we managed to do that and we will continue to do that,” City Council President Jack Heath told the Salisbury Independent.

“I’m pleased we have not had to raise taxes or the sewer rates. The tax rate is the big thing,” Heath said.

Total annual spending is increasing by $879,000.

Mayor Jake Day said he was happy with his third budget as the city’s chief executive.

“We’re proud to be able to continue all of the innovative programs we started and to be able to create a new homelessness program and to do all of it with no new taxes,” Day said.

The spending plan includes these highlights:

•Funding for public safety.

The budget includes $25.25 million, representing 60 percent, for police, fire and emergency services.

•Commitment to growth.

“Our growth is unmistakable and undeniable,” Day said.

“Demographic shifts mean that we are a rapidly growing, increasingly well­-educated, increasingly better off and increasingly younger city.

“Second, we are clearly doing the right things to undergird that growth and to achieve the objectives we set forth over six years ago. Finally, our growth does not directly translate into unlimited resources and thus we must cautiously and conservatively grow the programs we know our citizens deserve,” the mayor said.

•Record construction.

In 2018 there was $76 million in real estate development, more than any time since 2000.

“We witnessed a 30.9 percent increase in commercial real estate assessments, an 11 percent overall rise in real estate assessments and a 7.9 percent residential sale price increase in the city since 2016,” day said.

•Support for police.

Under the direction of Police Chief Barbara Duncan, the city now has the lowest crime rate in its history.

“Total Part l Crimes fell to their lowest number since we began keeping records in 1981,” Day said.

“I believe that part of this is our focus on predictive. proactive policing — and part of it is due to our focus on creating opportunity for youth,” he said.

•Devotion to youth.

“This budget is our first to fully fund the operations at the now-open Truitt Street Community Center and the soon-to-open Newton Street Community Center,” the mayor said.

Pop-Up Bus Stops, the Youth Civics Council, Youth Works Summer Jobs program, Explorers and Junior Fire Academy, and Salisbury Youth Athletics programs will each continue, contributing to the city’s youngsters, he said.

•Housing & Community Development.

This initiative will have about $85,000 in increased spending, rising to an annual total of $1.16 million for all neighborhood services.

•Planning for future revenues.

The mayor, who is up for re-election in November, telegraphed some concerns about future revenues and tax disparities, which hamper many city governments.

“I want to illuminate the reality that our rapid growth is not accompanied by an unlimited stream of revenue,” Day said.

“For that reason, this budget tightens our assumptions about savings over the course of the year,” he said.

•“Tough conversations.”

“I also believe that we must have tough conversations about inequities with respect to the provision of and compensation for services beyond our borders, and the structural disadvantage in which we are placed by existing in the only Maryland county not to have an equitable tax structure,” Day said.

“Our economic and population growth is impressive; our projects are transformative; and our financial position is enviable — but make no mistake: There is no gold rush on Salisbury.

“Every facet of our transformation is a long-term play,” he said.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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