The first of several hearings on the Mayor's proposed fiscal year 2015 budget for the City of Frederick was held on Wednesday evening. Elected officials heard presentations from Planning and Community Development, Parks and Recreation, and Engineering, Permits and Inspections.
In opening remarks, Mayor Randy McClement reminded the Aldermen that if they want to provide more funding for a specific department or project, they need to find the money from another part of the budget. "There's not additional revenues out there waiting to be used. We've used them all," he said.
Also, Budget and Purchasing Director Katie Barkdoll said the Mayor's proposed budget may need to be tweaked. "We've received information from the state that there was a downward adjustment to our business property assessments," she said. "We're still trying to gather information and figure out what that means. But this will likely affect our business tax revenue for both f.y. '14, and f.y. '15."
Mayor McClement introduced his proposed fiscal year 2015 budget on March 22nd. It totals just under $131-million dollars, and keeps the property tax rate at 73.05-cents per $100 of assessed value.
During the presentation by Parks and Recreation, Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak outlined her goals for the upcoming fiscal year. One was making the development of the Hargett Farm Property into a park a higher priority. "I believe that it can provide economic development, and I believe it can bring money into the city. And I believe it can pay for itself in less than three years," she said.
Several citizens, including members of F.C. Soccer, asked the city to develop the Hargett Farm property to include soccer fields.
Kuzemchak said the Clustered Spires Golf Course has a five-million-dollar debt hanging over it and nothing was being done about it. "We either need to sell it, and let a private entity make money off of it if it can," she said. "Or we need to acknowledge that we are subsidizing the golf course and acknowledge to all of our citizens that they are paying for it."
She said she was not criticizing the staff at the golf course, and noted that in some years it has been profitable, and in other years, it has not.
Her colleague, Alderman Phil Dacey, said the idea was worth exploring. "It doesn't seem to me the best use of limited city resources," he said.
But Parks and Recreation Director Roelky Myers said even if the city sold the golf course, it may not receive $5-million it needs to pay down its debt. He noted that the Westwinds Golf Course was sold two years ago for $750,000.
No decision was made on Alderwoman Kuzemchak's recommendation. But Myers said the Mayor has told him that something needs to be done about the Clustered Spires Golf Course. He said the Mayor told him "we're going to give you a window of five more years. If you cannot show that you can have a profit each year, then we're really going to be serious about moving in a different direction," Myers said the Mayor told him. Mayor McClement acknowledged that conservation.
The Mayor and Board will hold another budget hearing on Wednesday, April 9th at 7:00 PM at the Municipal Annex Building on West Patrick Street. During that time, the Police Department will be making a presentation.