GAITHERSBURG – The heads of city agencies came to City Hall Monday night to tell Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council how their departments planned to allocate funds in the city’s proposed operating budget for Fiscal Year 2018.
City Manager Tony Tomasello, in his opening remarks, said the budget increased by less than a quarter of a percent over the previous year. Several department heads discussed personnel or organizational changes.
“Although there has been talk in Congress of eliminating CDBG (Community Development Block Grants), we decreased that allocation just a small amount,” said Louise Kaufmann, chief of Housing and Community Development. “Last year, we received $353,000 in CDBG funds, of which $230,000 was allocated to the housing programs and this year $220,000. If we get a smaller grant from Congress, we can make adjustments.”
“We won’t know about the CDBG funds for quite some time,” said Council member Michael A. Sesma, who as a member of the National League of Cities has been active in advocating for the preservation of CDBG grants. “They have a major economic impact on cities and counties throughout the country, but the president’s budget would basically eliminate them. We’re in a fortunate position where we could probably make up funding if we had to, so it’s good that we’re taking steps to prepare for that.”
Britta Monaco, head of the Department of Community and Public Relations, said that her department had proposed elevating their part-time social media specialist to a full-time position.
“In addition to increased social media duties, this position is going to be responsible for our internal digital content, and you’ll see the first monitor go up in City Hall this spring, and the position’s also going to be responsible for website content as well,” Monaco said.
Police Chief Mark Sroka said the department’s budget included funding for body-worn cameras for all officers, as well as a $25,000 increase in overtime due to increased expectations from circuit and district court judges that all officers involved in a case must testify, not simply the primary or arresting officer.
“Once again, nobody’s going to do anything about Old Towne,” said Darline Bell-Zuccarelli, a community activist who has long called for the revitalization of Olde Towne Gaithersburg and made the issue the centerpiece of her campaign for mayor in 2015. “They can build Kentlands and put Crown up in three years, but they can’t do anything over here? Not even put in the fountain that they’ve been talking about for years?” Bell-Zuccarelli said she plans to run for mayor again this year.