Day’s budget avoids tax hike, asks water fees increase

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day’s $60 million FY19 operating budget, presented to the City Council and at a news conference this week, includes a slight increase in water and sewer fees but no new taxes, a combination Day called “great news for property owners and something we’re committed to.”

“The budget remains nearly flat.  We’re just so excited about the incredible work we’ve been doing and that we get to continue to do,” he told the Salisbury Independent.

“This is the second year under reorganized government. We will continue with homelessness, things the city has never done before,” he said.

Expenditures in the amount of $41 million include $25 million for public safety, or 61 percent; $5 million for public works, or 13 percent; $4 million for general government, or 10 percent; $1.8 million for recreation and culture, or 4 percent; $1.3 million for other, or 3 percent; and $3.8 million for debt service, or 9 percent.

Revenues total $41 million and include $28 million from tax revenues, $2.9 million for intergovernmental revenues, $7 million for charges for services, $602,000 in other revenues and $2.5 million from other sources.

A 4-cent hike in property taxes was approved last year. Taxes were not cut for homeowners, but a higher rate was placed on rental properties.

The FY19 budget can be found at salisbury.md, in a blue content box.

At the City Council meeting this week, Day thanked Director of Finance Keith Cordrey and staff for making the long document understandable to the public.

“The intent is to make this a document that people can understand. What we are doing in our community, how every dollar is applied … and the objectives that we have,” Day said during the City Council meeting.

Heath said the first year he was on the Council, he and fellow Council members spent six to eight-hour days studying and deciphering the budget.

“Some things were here, some things were there. It’s much, much easier now. It’s as close to a private business model as I have seen,” Heath said.

In the budget, Day wrote seeds are planted “for a brighter future than many in this area could have anticipated for Salisbury.”

“I believe that this budget feeds and waters those seeds adequately for continued healthy growth. As we observe and prune appropriately, we will pick the fruits of our labor and have more and more resources to work with in the future. And I am confident we will continue to rise as one of America’s great small cities.”

Using picturesque language, the mayor wrote that as the city’s renaissance unfolds, the city has “written a clear outline with a setting in a beautiful Delmarva landscape, and a narrative arcing toward a place of comfort, a community of peace and opportunity, and a city of listening and service.”

“Over the past five years, Salisbury has been in a transition, engaging more people in positive, cooperative progress as we seek to become known as one of the great small cities of America.

“In the last two years we have worked to transform our city government in response to these community changes. We have reorganized completely, funded new priorities, increased our commitment to our employees, and done it all while growing our economy and becoming ever more customer-service oriented,” he wrote.

The city has been rebranded and leaders have adopted the Downtown Master Plan, Zoo Master Plan, Urban Greenway Master Plan, Route 13 Corridor Plan and the City Park Master Plan.

“We have begun implementation of every major initiative your leadership team promised,” he wrote.

From 2010 to 2016, 3,778 more people moved to Salisbury representing 12 percent growth. By comparison, the other seven counties on the Shore lost a total of 404 people, Day wrote.

For the past two years, Salisbury has become the fastest growing city in Maryland, with a current median age of 27.8.

“Our job market continues to shine,” Day said, explaining more than 91 percent of business revenue in Wicomico County is received in Salisbury and 83 percent of employment is in the city.

Unemployment has dropped to 5.4 percent as per capita income growth “has outpaced both Wicomico County and the Salisbury Metro Area,” the mayor wrote.

Growth of families making more than $50,000 per year have outpaced the rest of the Delmarva Peninsula.

Day highlighted goals for the city, and they include:

  • Continuing to reduce homelessness, by investing in 30 households for chronically homeless and providing two staff members to work on the problem.
  • Creating opportunity for youth by hiring a specialist and funding two youth development centers on Truitt and Newton streets.
  • Strengthening neighborhoods by expanding the Neighborhood Walks, On the Table and Clean Sweeps programs.
  • Cleaning streets and the river.

“While we have grown our street sweeping program, reducing both pollutant and floatable introduction to the Wicomico River, I believe we can and should continue to expand the work we do to protect the Chesapeake Bay and Wicomico River,” Day wrote.

“Moreover, that work can contribute to enhancing the quality of our neighborhoods. This budget adds a neighborhood rubbish cleaning position to the budget for the first time, bringing some of the rubbish abatement work the city performs through contractors in house, reducing the cost to citizens who find themselves with a rubbish citation and providing far more control over the pace and effectiveness of rubbish cleanup efforts on private property.

“Furthermore, our stormwater management program will expand into the river, as we venture into the city’s first automatic floatable trash collection system – an enhancement over the manpower-intensive, four days per week, boat-based trash collection that happens today,”  Day wrote.

  • Providing high quality parks.

The city will add a parks maintenance worker to oversee 25 parks and continue “investing significant resources in city parks to respond to decades of under-funded maintenance and capital improvements,” Day wrote.

Improvements at the adjoining zoo will include paving, fencing, North American ducks and bobcat and red wolf exhibits.

  • Continuing plans to improve Waterside Park on the west side.
  • Providing safe alternative transportation.

The Bike Master Plan is in place and construction on paths will being this summer. Design and engineering progress is being made on the Urban Greenway, the Spine Rail-with-Trail and bikeways.

  • Improving the economy.

“Our booming economy must be reminded that we aren’t letting off the gas any time soon,” Day said.

“This year the final two phases of the Main Street Masterplan will be funded, as will the final phase of the Riverwalk Amphitheater,” Day wrote.

City leaders will continue signage and streetscaping and make repairs to the Downtown parking garage. The Business Development Department will supervise contracts for the Salisbury Running Festival this weekend and National Folk Festival in September.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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