GAITHERSBURG – Council member Michael A. Sesma, a longtime member of an advocacy group representing municipalities across the country, shared concerns about proposed federal budget cuts at a March 20 meeting that were first expressed at the National League of Cities’ Congressional Cities Conference in Washington last week.
Sesma noted that in the past, the NLC had been granted meetings with members of incoming presidential administrations, including cabinet secretaries, but that its only audience thus far with a member of the Trump administration was a presentation by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma attorney general sued the agency he now leads on multiple occasions.
“It was an interesting presentation,” Sesma said. Sesma added that President Donald J. Trump’s proposed wide-reaching cuts in the federal budget had alarmed many NLC members.
“There’s a real concern that cities are going to be cut out of the federal budget,” Sesma said. He noted that proposed cuts in the Department of Housing and Urban Development would eliminate the Community Development Block Grant Program.
“Cities use CDBG grants to address affordable housing,’ Sesma said. “Home grants are used to help out families down on their luck.”
Sesma also noted that the proposed 25 percent cut to the EPA’s budget would eliminate local environmental education initiatives and that the proposed 11 percent cut to the Federal Emergency Management Agency would increase the burden on cities in the aftermath of disaster.
“Cities use disaster assistance funds to help police and first responders in the aftermath of a tragedy,” Sesma said. “And then, of course, there are the cuts most people have heard about, like Meals on Wheels and school lunch programs.”
Sesma noted that the president’s budget was only a blueprint and that it would have to be passed by Congress, where, he said, “All of these programs have considerable support on both sides of the aisle. Nonetheless, we are preparing for the possibility of having these burdens shifted back onto the cities. The NLC is taking a proactive stance to work with the administration and we hope that reason will prevail.”
Sesma encouraged the public to contact their representatives in Congress to voice opposition to budget cuts.
The council voted unanimously to introduce an ordinance to adopt the city’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018. A public hearing on the budget will be held on April 17 with work sessions the following week. Stephanie M. Walker, director of Finance and Administration, said her department anticipated presenting the final draft of the budget to the council on June 5.
A work session on the proposed redevelopment of the Kentlands Apartment building, which was initially scheduled for March 13 but canceled due to Winter Storm Stella, has been rescheduled for March 20.