Mayor’s budget focuses on safety, neighborhoods

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day has submitted a $62.37 million fiscal 2020 spending plan that leaves city property tax and sewer rates untouched from the current year.

Total annual spending would increase by $879,000; the city is on course to have spent $61.49 million by the close of the fiscal year on June 30.

The city’s property tax rate would remain 0.9832 cents per $100 of assessed value. Property and personal taxes would raise $25.8 million in the coming year.

Last budget year, the City Council struggled with sewer and water rate hikes, which became a major time-consumer in budget discussions.

The fund which involves the municipality’s complicated water and sewer services, which has its own revenue streams derived from rates that users pay, is projected as the city’s second-biggest outlay at $18.49 million.

This is the third budget of Day’s first term as Salisbury’s executive. This budget takes a more traditional and seemingly cautious path than the spending plan offered last year, in which Day offered separate tax rates for single-family homes.

Day publicly unveiled his 2020 budget at a news conference held in front of the community center being redeveloped on Newton Street in the North Camden neighborhood. The location highlights the mayor’s commitment to youth programs, neighborhood redevelopment and homelessness interdiction.

Salisbury was just recently acclaimed as one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities, and Day’s spending plan appears to take that into account. He is budgeting an increase in receipts attributed to new construction, escalating income tax revenues and expanding utilities.

Public safety continues as the city’s top expense, with $25.25 million or 60 percent of the total budget going to police, fire and emergency services.

In the budget message that accompanies the 2020 spending plan, Day explained both his economic projections and his sense of spending caution.

“The budget acknowledges three central economic truths,” Day said. “First, our growth is unmistakable and undeniable. 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.”

Day touted the statistics that measure recent construction.

“In 2018, our city witnessed $76 million in real estate development — more development than any point since 2000. The amount of construction per month in the city during the 2016-18 period was $4.3 million per month — 56 percent more than during the period 2007-2015.

“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 also went to great lengths to tout the achievements of city Police Chief Barbara Duncan and a law enforcement team that has helped to ensure Salisbury 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.

“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. 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 positive. uplifting, supportive programs for kids in our city.”

Housing & Community Development would see about $85,000 in increased spending, rising to an annual total of $1.16 million for all neighborhood services.

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.”

In a statement sure to draw the attention of Wicomico County officials, Day added: “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.

“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. We seek not temporary victories, but instead a lasting ascent for our city.”

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at gbassett@newszap.com

As your community newspaper, we are committed to making Salisbury a better place. You can help support our mission by making a voluntary contribution to the newspaper.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment