Salisbury council gives final budget approval

Salisbury’s recently passed $60.9 million FY19 budget is, Mayor Jake Day said,  “one of proudest in our city’s history.”

“It continues to invest in our youth and focuses on ending homelessness, reducing crime. It takes our economy seriously and investing in our economy. It’s not just about politics.

“I’m as pleased with it now as when I proposed it. I’m grateful for the City Council’s hard work. I’m grateful for their commitment to keeping taxes low and trying to do all the great things we want to do from our quality of life to a public safety and management standpoint and they’ve helped us do that,” Day told the Salisbury Independent.

The budget is based on a property tax rate of 98.32 cents per $100 of assessed value and maintains the current property tax rate, but increases water and sewer rates. The 5 percent hike for service is a slight reduction from the 8 percent increase that was in Day’s original proposal. City officials said the new rates — effective with the Oct. 1 billing — are necessary to cover the increased costs of electricity and chemicals at the new wastewater treatment plant.

Day’s budget priorities — reducing chronic homelessness, creating opportunities for young people, strengthening neighborhoods, cleaning streets and the river, providing high quality parks, providing safe alternative transportation and growing the economy.

The budget will continue initiatives aimed at local youths, including Doverdale Lacrosse, the summer youth employment program and new community centers on Truitt and Newton streets.

The largest allocation in the budget is $24.7 million for public safety, followed by $5.3 million for public works and $3.9 million for general government.

The budget also includes $9.9 million in capital projects, including $6.7 million for the downtown Main Street improvement plan, $550,000 for the bicycle master plan, $775,000 for the Urban Greenway plan and $100,000 for the Riverwalk amphitheater.

Day also included money in the budget for a manager of neighborhood work, which is a new position in the city’s Housing and Community Development office.

The new budget, which will take effect July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, includes fee increases at city-owned parking lots and the downtown parking garage. The monthly fee at the garage, for example, will go from $35 per month to $40.

However, transient parking fees in the garage, the large lot near the library and at meters will stay the same.

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.

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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