Rockville City Hall Credit: Bethesda Beat Photo

Rockville’s proposed $138.5 million budget for fiscal 2020 keeps the city’s property tax rate unchanged and is 1.7 percent larger than this year’s budget.

After getting warnings from state officials of a looming economic downturn, City Manager Robert DiSpirito said the city mapped a conservative course, despite forecasts of increased revenues.

“Although many of the City’s major revenues are showing slight increases for [fiscal year] 2020, officials from the State of Maryland have cautioned all jurisdictions to budget conservatively and protect reserves considering a potential market contraction or recession in the near future,” DiSpirito wrote in memorandum accompanying last week’s release of the budget.

The budget includes about $1 million for pay and benefit adjustments to city employee salaries, above annual cost-of-living and merit increases, and is planning a comparison study of compensation. The goal is to make Rockville a more competitive work force. Counting seasonal and temporary workers, the city employs more than 600 people.

DiSpirito said the results of a $120,000  “Compensation and Classification Study” which looks at other competing workforce markets will dictate which positions receive adjustments.

“It’s not unusual for cities to do this every few years, ” DeSpirito said. “It helps keep the organization in a competitive advantage for recruiting employees when you have turnovers.  If you’re’ going to try and find the talent and experience you need, you’ve got to be competitive in that market and you’ve got to know what that market says.”

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City officials said they will maintain general fund reserves at or above the city’s minimum 20 percent level.

The budget also allocates $400,000 in performance grants for a Small Business Impact Fund, which was developed last year to promote economic growth in the city’s struggling business districts. The grocer Dawson’s Market is set to receive the lion’s share of the fund for the next several years. City officials have left room to increase or adjust the fund over the years.

Nearly $290,000 will be directed to the Nov. 5 Rockville Mayor and Council elections, which includes funding for the city’s new vote-by-mail initiative.

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And $260,000 is targeted for maintenance and operation costs at RedGate Golf Course and a newly acquired $6 million office building at 6 Taft Court. The building will serve as new maintenance facility in the Rothgeb Drive corridor that will replace a smaller, older house city employees use.

The city’s property tax rate is 29.2 cents per $100 of assessed value and the city estimates the value of the property tax base will increase 2 percent in the budget year.

The first public hearing on the budget is tonight and the council is scheduled to adopt the budget by May 6. There also is an online survey for input on the budget.

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