Salisbury mayor proposes $53.9 million FY16 budget

City residents will have an opportunity to comment on Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton’s proposed $53.9 million FY16 budget, at a public hearing next month.

Opinions will be heard before the City Council passes the annual document June 15. Most likely, the public hearing will be May 26, but the date will be finalized by the City Council at its April 27 meeting, according to Chris Demone, who handles public relations for the city.

Ireton is not calling for a personal property or real property tax increase, meaning personal property tax will remain at $2.21 cents and  real property tax at .937 cents.

When he presented his budget to the City Council on April 15, Ireton said the city has strong fund balances, including an $8.7 million general fund surplus.

The total budget for the general fund, parking fund, water  and sewer fund and the marina fund is $53.9 million. In addition, $10.1 million is proposed for the stormwater fund, general capital projects, water and sewer capital projects and the Community Development Corporation.

The $10.1 is divided this way:  $858,900 for stormwater, $4.6 million for general capital project fund, $4.2 million for water and sewer capital projects and $500,000 for the Community Development Corporation, according to Keith Cordrey, director of internal services for the city.

The budget contains a proposed 2 percent decrease in water and sewer rates for those living in the city.

Funding request highlights include:

  • Mayor’s office – $492,966.
  • Police department – $11.4 million requested, $10.9 million in the mayor’s budget.
  • Career portion of the fire department – $8.219 million requested, $8.158 million in the mayor’s budget.
  • Volunteer fire division – $246,617 requested, total amount in the mayor’s budget.
  • Technology department – $263,130 requested, total amount in the mayor’s budget.
  • Human Resources – $225,311 requested, $239,931  in the mayor’s budget.
  • Planning and Zoning – $171,532 requested, total amount in the mayor’s budget.
  • Government Office Building – $226,400 requested, total amount in the  mayor’s budget.
  • Animal  Control – $204,351 requested, total amount in the mayor’s budget.
  • Building, Permitting and Inspections – $383,096 requested, $385,710 in the mayor’s budget.
  • Recycling – $184,595 requested, total amount in the mayor’s budget.
  • Salisbury Zoo – $1.1 million requested, total amount in the mayor’s budget.
  • Marina – $107,582 requested, total amount in the mayor’s budget.
  • Water and Sewer Fund – $4.5 requested, total amount in the mayor’s budget.

During his presentation, Ireton said the budget “shows a third straight year of proposed rate cuts on city water and sewer bills” and the first proposed drop in Urban Services sewer rates.

It reflects his administration’s focus on law enforcement, emergency medical services, neighborhood integrity, infrastructure and downtown revitalization, he said.

“The responsible way city departments spend money has allowed our city to accurately predict what needs to be spent to provide services for our citizens. Due to general accounting rules, the exact amount of spending and surplus is not officially known until a full eight months after the budget for the next fiscal year is introduced. Over the past six years, the city has shaved months off the amount of time the city audit takes to be completed

“At the end of 2014 the city had $8.7 million in unassigned surplus in the general fund and $7.7 million in the water and sewer fund unrestricted net position … the city is investing heavily in what a municipality’s priorities are,” Ireton said.

He said he wants to see more officers on city streets, infrastructure improvements, investing in downtown, paying for fire and EMS, addressing blight in neighborhoods and providing raises for city employees.

“The assessable base numbers have risen slightly, a change from years past, and our commitment to tax fairness for municipalities in Wicomico County has never been stronger. Bringing our fire and EMS service into a city-only status due to no fire service agreement has the possibility of reaping a $2 million benefit to our taxpayers over the next several years,” Ireton said.

Ireton outlined the mayor’s office’s goals. They include encouraging and promoting community vitality, cohesion and engagement; striving to become the safest city on the Eastern Shore; promoting sustainable community health and public safety; continuing cost-saving measures; maintaining city facilities, infrastructure and technology; implementing financial sustainability; supporting and retaining new businesses; filling vacant buildings; and enhancing Salisbury’s economic development.

Police department goals include implementing Safe Streets crime reduction initiatives, continuing to operate under the COMPSTAT model, improving quality of life in neighborhoods, supporting legislation aimed at reducing crime, having two community programs and increasing the K-9 unit by adding one dog and one handler.

Goals for the fire department include maintaining highly responsive and effective fire suppression, fire prevention, continue to provide excellent medical emergency services and public education programs.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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