As you may have noticed from the picture or the byline, your intrepid city reporter Jen Fifield has moved on ... to the county and state politics beat. I’ll be sliding in to give you all the latest city happenings, decisions and of course, the downtown walk-arounds.
As an area newcomer (straight from the beaches of little Rhode Island) and a typical reporter, I’m always hungry for more information, so call, email or tweet at me anytime.
County funding for community action agency
Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak wants the county to contribute more money toward the Frederick Community Action Agency. As she pointed out during agency director Mike Spurrier’s budget presentation Wednesday, the agency provides services to residents of the entire county, not just the city.
County Executive Jan Gardner has included $75,000 in funding for the agency’s housing initiatives in her 2016 budget proposal, the same amount the agency received from the county the previous two years.
But this seems like a small amount compared to the city’s funding for the agency, about $2.77 million in the proposed 2016 budget. And for city residents, who pay both city and county taxes, Kuzemchak called this a case of “serious double dipping.”
Kuzemchak said she plans to advocate for the agency to receive more county funding, which Spurrier said is always welcome.
Possible changes to City Housing Fund on the horizon
In the same meeting, the board discussed possible changes to how it uses the money from the fees charged to developers who chose not to include the requisite number of moderately priced housing units in their developments.
Right now, the money from the fees — $16,000 per unit of moderately priced housing — goes into the City Housing Fund, which is managed by the community action agency. The money is intended to support affordable and subsidized community housing projects.
But the amounts on both sides of the equation are difficult to estimate, said Spurrier. The slow-moving nature of development projects, both those that pay the fees and those that would receive the funding, makes it hard to know when the money will go in and come out of the fund.
In this fiscal year, for example, the city collected about $757,000 in fees, but several of the affordable housing projects to which it planned to distribute the money — the senior apartments in the Motter Square building and a development planned by the Way Station, to name two — are not quite “shovel ready.”
And this will probably be the case for years to come, Spurrier said, since development projects usually progress slowly.
Whether changes involve repurposing the funds, raising the fees or some other changes to the ordinance, the aldermen agreed they will revisit the issue in future meetings.
Change to budget hearing schedule
The city is less than one month away from adopting its fiscal 2016 budget, and is making one change to the remaining public hearings to discuss the budget.
The city’s elected officials will meet at 3 p.m. May 11 to talk about the budget, instead of at 3 p.m. May 13.
All budget hearings take place at the city’s annex building at 140 W. Patrick St. The remaining hearings are at 7 p.m. May 6, 3 p.m. May 11 and 7 p.m. May 19. The aldermen are set to approve the city’s budget and tax rate at 7 p.m. May 21 at the board room in City Hall.
Staff writer Jen Fifield contributed to this report.
Nancy Lavin can be reached at 240-215-8675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.