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ROCKVILLE — City of Rockville Mayor Bridget Newton and the city council heard more public input on their proposed FY 2020 operating budget.
In the last public hearing to discuss the city’s budget on April 1, community members voiced concern about funding for local services and programs.
For community members that still want to provide input on the budget, the city of Rockville has a survey hosted on its website that allows residents to share their suggestions and priorities for 2020.
The proposed budget will take effect on July 1, 2019, and it will be active until June 30, 2020.
This year’s budget has seen a slight increase in funding over the last fiscal year. The total budget for the city of Rockville is $138.5 million which is a modest 1.7 percent increase since the 2019 operating budget. The General Fund of the budget, which funds most of the city government, saw a rise of 2.2 percent to $84.2 million.
In previous city council meetings, residents were pleased to find that the city’s property tax rate is not set to increase. As it stands, the City of Rockville personal property tax is $0.805 per $100 of assessed value for personal property.
Although the budget was increased slightly for 2020, officials have cautioned against excessive spending and to budget conservatively to protect funding reserves if the market experiences a contraction or downturn in the coming years.
Conservative and careful budgeting means that some programs and services will need to get by with less funding or cut services altogether.
Patricia Dubroof who spoke on behalf of the Rockville Cultural Arts Commission was one of the residents that addressed the city council in their last public forum.
“The Rockville Cultural Arts Commission has been told that the city council would like to make Rockville an arts destination,” she said. “But I’m here to talk about how our arts program funding has been nibbled away at.”
Dubroof explained that the loss of funding means that the Cultural Commission’s Art Program Specialist position is on the chopping block.
She also explained that the commission has written to the Rockville City Manager Rob Dispirito to voice their concern over the loss of this position.
“It’s a small budget item but what I’m noticing just like in the school system, just like in many other areas in the country, the concept of the arts is not taken seriously enough,” she said. “It’s a mistake to go backward on the funding on this.”
Dubroof explained that it is through funding that clearly values the arts and supports spaces for artists to work that many young artists get their start.
“I would like to hope that you won’t sacrifice the arts as you continue down this budget path,” she said. “It is imperative to keep the arts alive, and research shows that a dose of creative engagement is what keeps out brains healthy and our physical well being healthy.”
Cara Lesser, who created the Kid Museum, also appealed to the mayor and council for funding.
The Kid Museum was thought up by Lesser and two other local parents who noticed a disconnect between what kids were learning in school and what learning they would need to do to be ready for the future. The museum hosts field trips for students, summer camps and is open seven days a week to children and their families. It is also in need of a permanent and more spacious home.
The Kid Museum is currently based in Bethesda, but Lesser hopes that funding from the Rockville City Council will make it possible to move the interactive museum to Rockville.
“At this moment we are closer than we’ve ever been to achieving our goal for greatly expanding learning opportunities to children and families across the region and we hope that the council will continue its commitment to support this work,” Lesser said. “We are respectfully requesting full funding for two grants this year for a total of $60,000 to support our continued service to the city.”
Programs and services like these might not be cut altogether, but depending on what the council decides in the coming weeks many might need to tighten their belts.
If the city council deems it necessary, it will have another work session to discuss the budget further on April 29. The budget is set to be officially adopted on May 6.