Aftercare program, bikeshare, safety improvements proposed in FY 2018 budget

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Hyattsville Municipal Building

BY ELLEN TREIMEL — The Hyattsville City Council and city administrative staff held their second working meeting on the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget on March 15.  

City Administrator Tracey Nicholson opened the meeting by presenting accomplishments from FY 2017 and then focusing on highlights and budget priorities for the upcoming year. The total operating budget for FY 2018 is $25 million. Capital improvements are targeted to increase 39 percent, to $9.9 million, and major revenue is expected to increase in FY 2018. This increase will include real property taxes, which are anticipated to be approximately $11.3 million, and an anticipated $2.3 million in city income and operating taxes. The city currently has about $7 million in cash reserves.

The Hyattsville Life & Times reached out to councilmembers and the city’s financial advisor for comments about FY 2017 accomplishments and the FY 2018 budget proposal. When asked whether the city achieved its FY 2017 goals, Council President Edouard Haba (Ward 4) stated, “Yes, if you look at the overall goals. This is especially true when you look at capital improvement projects. The renovation of our Public Works Department facility is progressing according to timeline. The same goes for road improvements in the University Hills neighborhood. In the Community Services Department, I would say that they went above and beyond to provide quality programming and services.”

A Public Hearing on the proposed FY-18 budget will be held at 7:30 p.m. on April 12, followed by the council meeting at 8 p.m. The final FY 2018 budget will go to a vote on May 15.

There are a number of major initiatives introduced by the mayor and city council for FY 2018. Cost neutral city-administered school aftercare, introduced by Councilmember Kevin Ward (Ward 1), has been proposed as a pilot program for Edward M. Felegy Elementary School.

Another city council priority is the ongoing implementation of a motion approved Jan. 4, 2016, titled “Adoption of the President’s Task Force on 21st-Century Policing as a Framework for Community Policing in the City of Hyattsville.” The city police department has been implementing recommendations of the administration’s task force since the motion was approved, and the budget for FY 2018 reflects the city’s ongoing commitment to these efforts.  

Additional council priorities include conceptual design services to evaluate the layout and use of Magruder Park, a bikeshare network, an AmeriCorps VISTA mentoring program for youth, a feasibility study for a Hyattsville Circulator-Connector bus, several Environmental Committee initiatives, safety improvements and speed mitigation in Ward 4, and an expanded community survey to better track the needs and interests of city residents.

“As it stands, I’m encouraged by the prospect that the FY [20]18 budget might address some major issues including a feasibility study for a circulator bus connecting all corners of the city, making a decision and acting on the current facilities study, a partnership with the City of College Park and Meals on Wheels to provide free meals to some of our senior residents, [and] a low-cost child care pilot program,” Haba said. 

The proposed budget also increases city employee benefits. City Treasurer Ron Brooks highlighted that the FY 2018 budget would include a 1.5 percent cost of living increase for city employees. The city will enter its second year of offering a paid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) program. Several city employees took advantage of the program in 2017, and it is regarded as a success. The city would expand insurance options for retirees and provide several other fringe benefits. The city has also budgeted $12,000 for city employee tuition assistance during FY 2018.  

A proposed increase in the mayor’s salary, from $7,500 per year to $11,550 per year, is the only major change in the mayor’s office budget. The proposal was based on the Compensation Committee’s study.

The city will continue to contract certain services in FY 2018, including a virtual chief information officer and legal and accounting services. The city currently contracts with two accounting firms conducting ongoing audits. The city would like to hire an employee to help with finance work, which would allow Treasurer Brooks to do more in-house financial management projects. With the new hire in place, the city would discontinue one of its accounting service contracts.

The Hyattsville City Police Department (HCPD) made many upgrades and improvements in FY 2017 and plans to continue to build upon that progress in 2018. During FY 2017, the police department outfitted officers with body cameras, upgraded closed circuit television system cameras and connectivity, obtained a Safe Streets Initiative grant from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, and filled positions for the department’s captain and a coordinator for the Hyattsville Safe Streets Initiative. The police force also hired four additional officers and held a series of community conversation meetings.

During FY 2018, funding will continue for all existing HCPD services and programs. Funding has also been earmarked to hire an additional civilian dispatcher; to replace older, high maintenance vehicles; to purchase additional body cameras and video storage; to begin replacement of older firearms; to undergo an assessment by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies; to hire and train officers to fill vacant positions; and to establish a de-escalation training program. The City of Mount Rainier will reimburse Hyattsville $61,000 for shared police dispatch services. According to Police Chief Douglas Holland, 44 patrol positions have been approved and funded by the city, and seven vacancies remain. HCPD plans to fill the vacancies in the upcoming year.  

A Public Hearing on the proposed FY-18 budget will be held at 7:30 p.m. on April 12, followed by the council meeting at 8 p.m. The final FY 2018 budget will go to a vote on May 15.