• City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
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City Council Minutes

May 26, 2009

Cambridge Maryland SealMINUTES

Council Meeting

May 26, 2009

 

 

Commissioner Thomas made a motion to move into Executive Session to discuss personnel and a legal matter. Commissioner Hanson seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

The City Council met in regular session on Tuesday, May 26, 2009 in Council Chambers.  A quorum being present, Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley called the meeting to order at 7:15 p.m. Those Commissioners in attendance were Commissioners Knox, Sydnor, Thomas, and Hanson.

 

Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley asked for a moment of silence. Commissioner Hanson led in the Pledge of Allegiance. Commissioner Knox made a motion to approve the minutes of the May 11, 2009 Council meeting as distributed and corrected.  Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion.  The motion passed 4:0.   

 

PUBLIC HEARINGS

 

Annexation Request by Wyatt Group, LLC and Martin Ellsworth Burton for Approximately 124 Acres of Land Which Has Frontage on Rt. 16 and Woods Road (a.k.a. the Burton Farm)-The City and developer made a joint recommendation to Council to reschedule the annexation public hearing to June 25th. Commissioner Thomas made a motion that the annexation public hearing be rescheduled to Thursday, June 25th at 6:00 pm as a regular meeting. Commissioner Hanson seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.    

 

Constant Yield Tax Rate-The notice of public hearing was published in the Dorchester Star on May 15, 2009 and the Sunday Star on May 17, 2009.  Ed Kinnamon provided the audience with a written explanation of the constant yield tax rate which was taken from the State Department of Assessment's website.  The document includes a sample of how it applies to Cambridge.  If assessments rise, which they did in Cambridge, the City will get more revenue if they keep the same tax rate.  For the constant yield, you would drop the tax rate to a figure which will yield you the same amount of money you received the year before.

 

The City Commissioners of Cambridge, Maryland proposes to increase real property taxes.

 

1.      For the tax year beginning July 1, 2009, the estimated real property assessable base will increase by 7.7%, from $801,842,025 to $863,431,278.

 

2.      If the City of Cambridge maintains the current tax rate of $0.676 per $100 of assessment, real property tax revenues will increase by 7.7% resulting in $416,343 of new real property tax revenues. 

 

3.      In order to fully offset the effect of increasing assessments, the real property tax rate should be reduced to $0.628, the constant yield tax rate.

 

The City is considering not reducing its real property tax rate enough to fully offset increasing assessments.  The City proposes to adopt a real property tax rate of $0.676 per $100 of assessment.  This tax rate is 7.6% higher than the constant yield tax rate and will generate $416,343 in additional property tax revenues.

 

An unidentified gentleman said that means the City is increasing taxes. Ed Kinnamon said the City is not increasing taxes.  If the tax rate stays the same, the City will gain additional tax revenue.

 

Commissioner Sydnor asked if the tax credit from the County will still be in effect. Ed Kinnamon said he understands that the County will still offer the credit.  Commissioner Sydnor said as far as assessment is concerned, there is a cap. Ed Kinnamon said the assessable rate cannot exceed more than 5 percent for a primary residence only. Commissioner Thomas said the State establishes the assessable value and the County puts the 5 percent cap on it.  The City went along with the 5 percent cap that the County Government voted on.

 

Bill Robinson asked if this means that when the tax bill comes, there will be no change in taxes.  Ed Kinnamon said if a property value went up, which it probably did, the homeowner will have an additional charge on their tax bill.  If the Council keeps the rate the same, the amount of taxes paid will increase.  The gentleman asked if the City could get the money elsewhere. He said the taxes are ridiculous. He is paying $7500 a year to live in Clifton Woods. He suggested cutting something in the Department of Public Works. There is no place to park because of all the employees.  There is no building going on in Dorchester County so there has to be something to cut in that building and that is just one place.  Ed Kinnamon said he can only offer his experience in reporting revenues that he gets information from the State. They are dropping. The highway user tax revenue went from $1,000,000 down to $800,000. Income tax dropped.  The room tax revenue has dropped from $1,000,000 down to $800,000. The gentleman said like in a household, you find other things to cut rather than taxing people to death. People want to move.  Commissioner Sydnor said Mayor Stanley submitted a letter to the editors of the media. Within the letter, there were things that the previous Council should have addressed but they did not. There were major projects that had taken place but there was no funding put in place for those projects.  Council has to look at things like this in order to provide the services the citizens are accustomed to but at the same time to be justifiable in meeting the City's obligations.

 

Mr. Robinson asked if the increase in assessable rate is based on new properties or based on an increase in assessed value.  Ed Kinnamon said it is based on an increase in assessed value which is set by the County every 3 years.   The County can provide a total for the new properties coming on line.  Mr. Robinson said if the property values decreased, then the tax rate should increase in order to get the constant tax rate. Ed Kinnamon said if the property values are to decrease, the constant yield would then exceed our current tax rate.  If this happens, the City would not be required to hold a public hearing because there is no increase in taxes.   Commissioner Thomas said most properties in Cambridge were reassessed about 2 years ago during the peak of the real estate market.  A flood of people filed appeals with little or no success. If we do not see an improvement to the economy, when they come back to reassess the properties, our tax assessable base will go down.  Mr. Robinson said if the assessment goes down, then the tax rate will go up and the homeowners will still have to pay more property taxes.  Commissioner Sydnor said the State will have to evaluate if the property values have re-adjusted for the economy that we are dealing on.

 

Mayor Stanley suggested that if anyone has any other questions, they should contact Commissioner Sydnor.  He and Commissioner Thomas have looked at this topic continually for several weeks now.

 

Commissioner Knox said the City of Cambridge has not raised their property taxes since 2004.  He urged people to apply for the home tax credit if they have not applied yet.  The assessment is what gets us. Until a reassessment is done, and real estate comes back to normal, this is what we are going to have. It is not the City doing it. Our departments have cut every nickel and penny that they possibly can from their budgets to allow the Council to balance the budget so they do not have to increase taxes.  Commissioner Sydnor said in the last 6 years, the City has taken on approximately $17,000,000 worth of debt.  Council did not put in place a way to pay for it.  They have been decreasing the reserve funds to pay the debt.

 

Ralph Dill, Cambridge Landing, said the taxes he pays are onerous and unjustified. They are outrageous.  He is paying about $600 a month and that is only restrained because of the Homestead Act. He is headed toward $1,000 a month in taxes. That is more than most people's mortgage payments. There is a structural problem that generates that level of taxation requirement. The actions of the previous Mayor and Council were irresponsible and that added to the problem.  He said Commissioner Sydnor was talking about additional debt. The base load is already too high. He did trust his previous government. He believes this is restricting Cambridge's competitiveness with surrounding towns.

 

Bill Laramore, Court Lane, said in 14 years he has watched the behavior of the City's leadership. We went from darkness to daylight. This Council is the daylight. He is not happy that something has to be done right now with regard to our current operating statement. If there is one thing we can learn from this experience, when people are asking for things they want rather than things they need, that is when Council has to go through their misery and make decisions and are measured by people who are uninformed because nobody can learn all the details that Council is coping with and he hopes everyone remembers that. We cannot afford to fall prey to what we want. We must measure and fund our needs.

 

Rob Collison said there are really two aspects that the County is involved with. They set the cap (the 5% Homestead credit).  There is also a tax differential when the County determines there is duplication of services. Because the City generally offers all the services to the City residents, the County reduces the County tax rate.  Ed Kinnamon said he believes it is 4 cents off of the County tax rate. The County has the discretion to increase it to whatever they deem appropriate. Commissioner Sydnor said even when the County gives a 4‑cent offset to the City's citizens, the City of Cambridge still must provide that service.  Rob Collison said this decrease is shown on the County tax bill.  Commissioner Knox reminded the citizens that when the County begins their budget process, the citizens of Cambridge should be there.  Whatever happens in Cambridge effects the entire County.

 

Betsy Harrington, Aurora Street, said once the City increases the property tax revenue by not applying the constant yield, once the revenue amount goes up, then that becomes the amount from now on. Commissioner Sydnor said this is not necessarily true. This has to be done by State law. The tax rate, which is 0.676 now, can change. Betsy Harrington said the City is proposing to now change the rate thereby increasing the base revenue. Rob Collison said the assessment next year could change. The City would take the assessment next year times the current rate and show the effect on the equation.  

 

Commissioner Thomas said Council's decision tonight is to adopt or not adopt the constant yield rate. Most likely they will not set the tax rate tonight because the other part of the equation is the budget which will probably not be determined until June 8th or shortly thereafter.  Commissioner Hanson said Council has had 3 or 4 budget meetings. They have gone line-by-line and cut more than $1.7 million. They have not increased spending in one single area.  Council is addressing Mr. Robinson's concern about things being out of hand. Commissioner Sydnor said some of the debt service ($17 million) they have taken on was not provided for by the previous Council.  They are looking at the whole spectrum before they put it on the taxpayers.

 

Roman Jesien, Belvedere Ave., said over the last 10 years, Cambridge has experienced a lot of development. The developers told us new jobs would be generated, new people would come to Cambridge, and wonderful stuff would happen. Now we have a debt of $17 million.  Development does not necessarily bring in a lot of money.  A lot of services are associated with that development.  In the future, when Council is approached about development, they should consider what it costs to have that development. The value of his house has gone up considerably but so have the taxes.  Now the value of the house is going down, but the taxes are still going up. Commissioner Sydnor said with housing development, we now have an impact fee. Mr. Collison is investigating an excise tax which will allow the Council to be more flexible with the funds.

 

Commissioner Thomas made a motion to close the public hearing. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

Ed Kinnamon announced that Council is planning to set the tax rate at their Council meeting on June 8th.  Council will hold a budget meeting on June 1st at 5:00 pm.

 

APPOINTMENTS

 

Rev. Jay Hurley, Grace United Methodist Church, to Request Permission to Use Great Marsh Park on Sunday, June 21st from 9:00 am Until 5:00 pm for Morning Worship Service and a Church Picnic and a Variance from the Noise Ordinance-Rev. Hurley was not present. Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Thomas seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

April Ellerbusch to Request Permission to Use Great Marsh Park on Saturday, July 11th, from 1:00 pm Until 4:00 pm for Cambridge-South Dorchester High School Class of 1994 for a Class Reunion and a Noise Variance for Those Hours-Ms. Ellerbusch was not present. Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

Deborah Fletcher to Request Permission to Use Great Marsh Park for a Family Reunion on Sunday, July 12th from 9:00 am Until Dusk and a Variance from the Noise Ordinance for a D.J.-Ms. Fletcher was not present. Commissioner Thomas made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Hanson seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

Tarron Fletcher to Request Permission to Use Great Marsh Park on Saturday, June 6th from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm for Her Daughter's Second Birthday and a Variance from the Noise Ordinance for a D.J.-Ms. Fletcher was not present. Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Thomas seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

Evangelist Denice Carswell, National Church of God, to Request Permission to Hold Outreach Ministry from Their Church Motor Home at Great Marsh Park, Douglas Street Park, and the City Race and Cedar Street Property Between 9:00 am and 2:00 pm on 1 to 2 Weekends a Month; a Variance from the Noise Ordinance to Use Their Portable PA System; and a Barbeque Grill to Serve Food-A schedule will be coordinated with DPW so a vote can be taken at the next meeting.  Commissioner Thomas made a motion to allow National Church of God to hold their outreach ministry on Sunday, June 21st from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm at the Race and Cedar Streets lot and included a variance from the noise ordinance. The Church must comply with the Health Department's food regulations. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

Theresa Johnson, New Way of Life Club, to Request Permission to Use the Douglas Street Playground on Sunday, June 7th from  3:00 pm to 7:00 pm for a Family and Friends Community Day, a Variance from the Noise Ordinance, and Trash Cans-The request was withdrawn. A new request will be made at a future meeting.

 

Representatives from the Masonic Lodges of Cambridge to Use the Race and Cedar Streets Lot to Host a "Fish and Chips" Benefit Fundraiser for a Homeless Shelter on Saturday, August 1st from 12 Noon Until 7:00 pm, Use of Electric and Water, 6 Large Trash Receptacles, and a Variance from the Noise Ordinance-Commissioner Knox made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Hanson seconded the motion. Commissioner Thomas stated that he did not think there was a water hook-up on the lot. The motion passed 4:0.

 

Nancy Tempera to Request Permission to Use Long Wharf Park for a Wedding on Saturday, August 15th from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and a Variance from the Noise Ordinance-Commissioner Thomas made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

 

Community Development Block Grant Applications-Commissioner Sydnor made a motion approve the submission of the applications for High Street and Pine Street in that order. Commissioner Hanson seconded the motion.  The High Street Preliminary Engineering Study application is for $65,263. The Pine Street Property Acquisition and Remediation application is for $65,700.  The motion passed 3:0. Commissioner Thomas abstained.

 

Approve Resolution to Submit CDBG Applications-Commissioner Hanson made a motion to approve a resolution for the CDBG applications. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion passed 3:0. Commissioner Thomas abstained.

 

Commissioner Thomas to Give Traffic, Safety, and Lighting Committee Report-Commissioner Hanson made a motion to accept the recommendations of the Traffic & Safety Committee:

 

§         400 Block of Race Street - Return the traffic pattern back as it was before to two-way traffic and prior parking configuration

§         Streetlight at 111 Maryland Avenue - Deny request

§         Streetlight at 710 Peachblossom Avenue - Deny request

§         Designated Handicap Parking Space at 313 Henry Street - Upon approval of MVA, refer matter back to Traffic & Safety Committee

 

Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

Lease Between the City of Cambridge and the Maryland Port Administration-Commissioner Hanson made a motion to approve the lease as drafted. Commissioner Thomas seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

NEW BUSINESS

 

Request from Representative of Mirman, Inc. to Waive Fines and Interest Related to Their Property-This item will be on the agenda on June 8th.

 

Approve Budget Amendment for Department of Public Works-Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve the budget amendment. Commissioner Thomas seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

Approve Budget Amendment for Cambridge Police Department- Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve the budget amendment. Commissioner Thomas seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

Approve Financial Statement for April 2009- Commissioner Hanson made a motion to approve the financial statement. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

Approve Purchase Orders-

 

Department of Public Works

 

PO 91366 - Paradise Enterprises, LLC - 56 Yards Fill Dirt.......................................... $406.00

PO 91367 - Dorchester Service Assoc. - Service/Repair DPW A/C Unit............... $2,110.00

PO 91368 - Edwin A. & John O. Crandell - Construction Boat Ramp.................. $390,000.00

 

Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve PO 91366. Commissioner Hanson seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.  Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve PO 91367. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.  Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve PO 91368. Commissioner Thomas seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

Cambridge Police Department

 

PO 5123 - Valerie J. Mann - Prepare Grant Applications.......................................... $1,835.00

PO 5125 - Bank of America - Polygraph School Expenses (LGIT Grant)................ $1,612.00

 

Commissioner Hanson made a motion to approve PO 5123. Commissioner Thomas seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.  Commissioner Hanson made a motion to approve PO 5125. Commissioner Thomas seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

ADDITIONAL ITEMS

 

Request from Portside Restaurant for a Variance from the Noise Ordinance for a Dock Party on Sunday, June 7th from 1:00 pm to 7:00 pm-Commissioner Thomas made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Hanson seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

Paving Small Section of the 400 Block of Race Street-Commissioner Thomas made a motion that the Department of Public Works be authorized to have approximately 800 sq.ft. of street in front of 448 Race Street repaved-not to exceed $2,500. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.

 

Mayor Stanley explained the "Mayor's Council on Children and Youth" she will be establishing in the near future.

 

 

With no further business, Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley adjourned the meeting at 9:15 p.m.  I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting Tuesday, May 26, 2009, insofar as I personally am aware.

 

                                               

                                                                                                                                    

                                                                                    Edwin C. Kinnamon

                                                                                    Clerk & Treasurer