ROCKVILLE — Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and the City Council of Rockville held a public hearing to get community input about allocation of funds from the 2020 budget.
The budget for fiscal year 2020 is set to be adopted by the mayor and city council on May 1, with implementation the following month. The 2020 operating budget sits at $138.5 million, which, according to the city of Rockville, is an 1.7-percent increase over last year’s.
The General Fund, which is what supports the majority of the overall operating budget, saw a 2.2-percent increase to $84.2 million. Although for the most part, the budget saw increases in funding, there are some programs and services that will be seeing cuts.
The public hearing on March 4 gave residents the chance to voice their opinions about the proposed changes.
One organization that is facing cuts to some of its programs is the Community Ministries of Rockville, (CMR), which provides services like elder care, housing programs and English-language classes, among others. Two of CMR’s programs facing cuts include the Language Outreach Program and the Rockville Emergency Assistance Program.
Agnes Saenz, executive director of CMR, spoke during the public hearing to encourage the council to keep funding the programs at the same level as last year.
“I want to emphasize how important your support of health and human services is,” Saenz said. “I will urge you to reconsider to fund at the same levels as last year and restore the funds for (the Language Outreach Program and the Emergency Assistance Program).”
The Language Outreach Program offers free English-as-a-second-language classes for adults as well as childcare and homework tutoring for kids.
Katie Sanchez explained that the program has offered much more than language classes to the community, including homework help and childcare for young children that can have a huge impact on the whole family.
“My brothers and I would come and participate in the child’s tutoring part of the program,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez credits her high GPA as a senior at Rockville High School to the extra help she got from tutors at the program. Also, her mother also participated in the free English classes to improve her skills.
“In 2016, my mother became a U.S citizen; she was able to pass the citizenship test because she had learned English through the LOP,” Sanchez said.
Community members also highlighted the continued support from the mayor and city council of CMR’s Elderly Ministries Program. Program Director Will Mohan thanked the council for supporting the service.
The Elderly Ministries Program was established in 1983 with the goal to provides services for low-income senior residents that make it easier for them to stay in their own homes.
Clients can receive visits from certified aides to help with household chores and personal care. The program also offers accessibility improvements for homes, free food, and even friendly phone calls, according to Mohan.
“Every client becomes dear to us, and therefore we do everything we can for them as if they were our own family,” Mohan said. “Last year Elderly Ministries served 86 clients, providing over 40 to 100 hours of home care services (to each), including light housekeeping, laundry, personal care, as well as 73 home repair maintenance projects.”
Mohan explained that the program was able to provide new kitchen appliances to an elderly mother and her son who live together in Lincoln Park. The two were still using kitchen tools from the 1950s that were not effective at cooking or storing food.
The Elderly Ministries Program partnered with the city and was able to provide the two with a new stove and refrigerator.
Services like these, along with accessibility projects, make it safer and more comfortable for low-income seniors in the community to remain in their own homes and perhaps even delays the necessity of moving into a senior care facility, Mohan said.
“We are proud of the significant difference our services have had in the lives of the seniors we serve in the city of Rockville,” he said, thanking the mayor and the city council for their continued support of the program.
There will be another public hearing on the budget for fiscal year 2020 on April 1 to allow the community again to voice their opinions. The opportunity for public comment will close on April 5.