Category Archives: Finances

Mayor and Council to Consider Changes to Mayor and Council

At its Monday, December 12, 2022 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss the FY22 financial report and the FY24 budget priorities. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are a dozen items, including easements, services, grant agreement, and the tenth amendment to the interim management agreement with Morguard for Rockville Town Square, among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on priorities with the District 17 Delegation and recommendations from the 2020-22 Charter Review Commission.

The Charter Review Commission has developed recommendations for a wide variety of issues related to the City Charter (its constitution), including expanding the size of the City Council, term limits for councilmembers, alternative voting systems, translation of election materials, the scope and size of the Board of Supervisors of Elections, and increasing voter turnout. After forty meetings and interruptions due to the pandemic, the Commission is recommending that,

“the City maintain the status-quo on several topics (e.g., staggered Council terms and alternative methods of advertising elections), the Commission is also recommending bolder changes to City policy and operations in order to enhance accountability and transparency, increase voter turnout, and advance racial equity and social justice. Notably, the Commission is recommending such reforms as an increase in the size of the Council, implementation of term limits on the Mayor and Council, creation of representative districts, exploring changing the time of the election, and allowing residents who are not United States citizens and those at least 16 years of age to vote in municipal elections.”

More details in the 465-page agenda packet are available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_12122022-6765.

Heard on the street: things are heating up in the West End neighborhood regarding design guidelines proposed by the West End Citizens Association. I suspect this is related to the 2040 Comprehensive Plan. A website opposed to WECA’s action can be found at PreserveTheWestEnd.com.

Pandemic Resulted in High Subsidies for Recreation and Parks in 2021

At its Monday, November 21, 2022 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss financial management policies, annexing 1201 Seven Locks Road, and the new Comprehensive Plan. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are employment agreements for the Deputy City Manager and Assistant City Manager for Project Management, among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on staff vacancies and hiring.

How much should the city subsidize Recreation and Parks programs, such as summer camps, skate park, or childcare, that are used by a small segment of residents? How should it manage donations it receives annually for the Holiday Drive and Senior Assistance Fund? At the upcoming meeting, the Council will discuss these and other financial management policies.

Excerpt of the Cost Recovery Summary for Parks and Recreation programs. Most Tier 2 programs required higher subsidies than expected due to the pandemic (red), but Facilities Maintenance and Arts fared much better (green). For more details, see agenda packet page 34.

The City of Rockville has an extensive set of financial management policies that affect eight major areas: achieving and maintaining a structurally balanced budget, fund balance and reserve policies, capital planning policies, investment policies for both retirement plans and City funds, revenue control and management policies, economic development policies, and debt compliance and data analysis policies. For Recreation and Parks programs, the City uses a “five-tier cost-recovery pyramid” ranging from Tier 1 for parks, trails, landscapes, playgrounds, and general-use facilities with a 0% cost recovery to a Tier 5 for private rentals and private lessons with a 100% or more cost recovery. Fees and charges are reviewed and adjusted annually, but the pandemic lowered cost recovery significantly. In Tier 2, for example, the Lincoln Park Community Center is expected to recover 20% of its costs in 2022 (a subsidy of 80%) but in 2021 it actually recovered 3% (a subsidy of 97%). There are a couple of bright spots: Facilities Maintenance and Arts recovered more than expected (in other words, required less of a subsidy), most likely as well due to the reduced use of facilities and arts programs during the pandemic. A summary is available on Packet Page 34.

The Financial Advisory Board recently recommended that the City create a formal donations policy. The City receives less than one percent of its revenues from donations each year, which are accepted by check, made through the City’s website, the recreation registration system, and through the round-up feature with online utility bill payments. During FY 2022, the City received approximately $130,000 in donations from over 1,800 donors, averaging $12 for the Recreation Fund and $300 for the Holiday Drive. It also received two donations over $5,000: one $25,000 donation for the Holiday Drive and one $20,000 donation for the Eat Fresh program. Strangely, when the City explored this topic further, it discovered that a donations policy is not a common practice in municipal governments in Maryland. Geez, this suggests an obvious opportunity for embezzlement in government and I’m glad to see the City is thinking ahead. It’s a common practice in nonprofit organizations.

The big kahuna for the meeting (if not the year), however, is the progress on the Rockville 2040 Comprehensive Plan—the city’s “to do” list for the next twenty years. At this meeting, the City Council will review the progress on tasks that are to be completed in the next 1-3 years. This is an enormous undertaking not only to complete, but also to manage. These tasks include a zoning ordinance rewrite, updating the Town Center Master Plan, adopting a Pedestrian Master Plan, assessing speed limits on Wootton Parkway, redeveloping King Farm Farmstead, installing back-up power generation for critical facilities, promoting backyard composting, preparing a Flood Resiliency Plan, and constructing senior housing. Since the Plan’s adoption in August 2021, 228 actions are currently in the near-term completion timeframe, but are not yet completed or in progress; 43 actions are currently in the “in progress” status; and 19 actions have been completed. If you want details on what’s happening in the City or your neighborhood, start on Packet Page 89. Getting everyone on board and focused is a continual challenge, and residents and businesses (and Council members) always have new ideas—but time and staff are limited so establishing priorities is essential.

It’s also enlightening to see which neighborhoods are most engaged in the community. In October, the City distributed surveys about community needs and interests. Among the highest response rates were College Gardens (156 responses) and Twinbrook (52 responses). Among the lowest were Tower Oaks (1 response) and Lincoln Park (0 responses). I wonder if this correlates with voter turnout?

More details in the 152-page agenda packet are available at https://rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_11212022-6754.

Mayor and Council to Adopt Plan for Red Gate Park

At its Monday, October 17, 2022 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss the FY2024 budget and adoption of a master plan for Red Gate Park. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are agreements with the Rockville Football League and the Road Runners Club, among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive a report from the Financial Advisory Board.

The Financial Advisory Board‘s report found no issues with City finances under its scope of work, however, it also revealed several significant differences between them and the City Council and staff. The Board believes that all recreation and parks programs should recover their full costs in fees, however, the Council wants some programs to be subsidized for specific residents to be affordable. Secondly, the Board disagrees with the staff on the handling of donations. It’s unclear what the staff position is, but the Board seems to be recommending that a written policy be adopted. Finally, there seems to be a disconnect between Council priorities and city department goals. No examples are provided, but the city has hired Raftelis to review performance management practices.

Continue reading →

Mayor and Council to Discuss Human Rights and Rockville Town Square

Among the potential improvements being discussed in the 2023 budget are park shelters/canopies/gazebos. Which neighborhoods are well served and which are neglected?

At its Monday, April 18, 2022 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss an ordinance to establish an education commission, the management agreement with Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT) for Rockville Town Square, and once again, the FY 2023 budget and what to do with the remaining ARPA funds. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are contracts for tree care ($900,000 annually) and landscape maintenance ($193,000 annually); $250,000 grant agreement for Lincoln Park Community Center improvements; and six proclamations. The Mayor and Council will also receive a report from the Human Rights Commission.

Continue reading →

Mayor and Council to Explore Financial Assistance to City Employees and ALICE Residents

The average cost of a typical house in Rockville is $585,000, a 6% increase compared to last year. Source: Zillow.com.

At its Monday, March 21, 2022 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will hold a public hearing on the FY2023 Budget and discussion employer-assisted housing; a proposed Bank on Rockville program; and use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. A surprise for the upcoming budget discussion is a half-dozen requests at the last public hearing to increase city staff to support specific services. While there was one request for staff devoted to public safety (i.e., police), it was matched by requests for the arts, human services, bike and pedestrian safety, and environmental sustainability—significantly different results from the community survey, which had police and crime prevention as a top priority. These diverse opinions suggest the challenges that City Council members face when making decisions for the community. My advice: think long-term and focus on your purpose and vision.

Continue reading →

Mayor and Council to Design Rockville Metro, Spend $6 Million in Federal Funds, and Battle over the Budget on December 13

Conceptual plan 2 for the Rockville Metro Station (parking and a bus loop moves west of MD355).

At its Monday, December 13, 2021 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss three design concepts for Rockville Metro station, use of nearly $6 million in ARPA funds, and determine 2023 budget priorities. This is a worksession and will not offer public hearings or a community forum, but it will be streamed live if you are interested in these topics.

Continue reading →

Rockville Mayor and Council to Discuss Taxes and Budget for Next Year

At its Monday, October 25, 2021 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss taxes for fiscal year 2022 and the budget calendar. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are fees for public works and planning and develop services, among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on the American Rescue Plan Acts funds, senior citizen commission update, and a proposed youth commission.

More details in the 184-page agenda packet available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_10252021-6386.

Zip Code 20850 Major Source of Campaign Funding–Again

Donations 2013 OctoberThe second campaign finance reports for the Rockville Mayor and Council elections for the period October 1-27, 2013 were recently submitted and they reveal that Zip Code 20850 (includes Fallsgrove, West End, New Mark Commons, East Rockville, Lincoln Park, College Gardens, King Farm) still dominates the contributions and even increased their giving by 5 percent compared to September.  The other Rockville Zip Codes fell far in the distance at 10 percent for 20854 (Horizon Hill, Fallsmead, Potomac Woods); 6 percent for 20851 (Twinbrook); and 5 percent for 20852 (Hungerford, Montrose, North Farm).   For the entire election season, 20850 is tops at 63 percent, contributions outside the city come in at 21 percent, and the other three Zips stand at about 5 percent.  Again, that roughly mimics the voting records for those regions and perhaps how much they Continue reading →

Election Shenanigans Encourage Unethical and Illegal Behavior

Illegal flyer distributed in King Farm in October 2013.

Illegal flyer distributed in King Farm in October 2013.

In an effort to discourage the shenanigans that are occurring in the current Mayor and Council election, I’ve filed an official complaint with the City’s Board of Supervisors of Elections (BOSE) this week.  Last weekend, a couple people were distributing a flyer door-to-door in the King Farm neighborhood that called for the election of Bridget Newton, Don Hadley, and Claire Marcuccio Whitaker to the Rockville Mayor and Council for various reasons.  That’s not a problem except it was anonymous, a tactic I find cowardly because the source is secret and isn’t accountable for their statements, but in Rockville, it’s also illegal.  The City Code states that, “Every person who publishes or distributes or causes to be published or distributed any pamphlet, circular, card … relating to or concerning any candidate … shall include the name and address of the person, treasurer, or campaign committee responsible for the literature.”   That’s why you always see Continue reading →

Zip Code 20850 Dominates Rockville Campaign

Donors by Zip Code 9-2013The first campaign finance reports for the Rockville Mayor and Council elections for the period ending September30, 2013 were recently submitted and they reveal that Zip Code 20850 (includes Fallsgrove, West End, New Mark Commons, East Rockville, Lincoln Park, College Gardens, King Farm) provides more than 60 percent of the funds, with other Rockville Zip Codes 20851 (Twinbrook), 20852 (Hungerford, Montrose, North Farm), and 20854 (Horizon Hill, Fallsmead, Potomac Woods) falling far in the distance with an average of 5 percent.   That roughly mimics the voting records for those regions and perhaps how much they feel engaged with the larger Rockville community.  For individual campaigns, the breakdown varies considerably and can signal how much a candidate has engaged with or is subject to influence by a particular neighborhood.

Donors by Zip Code by Candidate 9-2013

New candidates often have to rely on support from themselves, family, or friends and that’s the pattern seen with Hadley, Palakovich Carr, and Whittaker.  Feinberg, on the other hand, has been able to obtain more than 95 percent of her supporters within Rockville, an impressive achievement for an experienced candidate and extraordinary for a newcomer.  The mayoral candidates of Newton and Pierzchala, both current councilmembers, are relying heavily on residents within 20850 and from outsiders–donors outside of Rockville exceed 25 percent for both candidates.  Feinberg and Palakovich Carr have gathered the broadest representation of supporters across Rockville’s four zip codes.

Number of Donors 9-2013

The number of donors seems to fall in three groups.  Newtown and Pierzchala lead with about 80 supporters each, Feinberg and Palakovich Carr in the second batch with about Continue reading →