Aberdeen Communities Together (ACT), the grass-roots community action group largely responsible for ushering the current mayor and city council into office, is preparing to ask Aberdeen officials to take specific measures, several drastic, to reduce what they believe is are unfairly high costs of living and conducting business within the city limits.
In an email distributed this week, ACT organizers invited group members and city property owners to a meeting this Friday evening at the Aberdeen Senior Center, during which they plan on finalizing a letter to city officials laying out a plan and recommendations with the goal of “reducing the citizens’ out-of-pocket expenses.”
The letter, currently only in draft form, lists 10 suggested ways the city could reduce its expenses including “eliminating give-away programs for businesses,” reducing the number of city employees, implementing five furlough days, eliminating or restructuring the use of city vehicles, restructuring health insurance coverage and retirement systems, and seeking new revenue through a hotel/motel tax.
Here is email that was distributed Tuesday morning:
Dear Concerned Citizen(s):
This is an electronic reminder of the Aberdeen Communities Together meeting at 7 PM, at the Senior Center (7 Franklin Street, across from Festival Park) this Friday evening.
Several items are on the AGENDA, one item is Fair/Reasonable Property Taxation, which the group has selected as an area to place our emphasis. Attached please find a draft of a letter that we will discuss at the meeting and then plan to provide to our City Council (LetterDraft121509.PDF) at a regular City Council meeting.
If you own property in the City, you may want to attend this meeting.
Here is the attached letter, addressed to Mayor Mike Bennett and the city council, which is water-marked as “DRAFT” in its original form:
Honorable Mayor Bennett and Aberdeen City Council Members,
Aberdeen Communities Together (ACT) believes the majority of Aberdeen City taxpayers (residents and business owners) are concerned about the high cost to live and do business within the City limits. These “high costs” refer specifically to property taxes and water/sewer charges.
As the newly elected Council begins its term, we believe it is critically important for you to focus your efforts on maintaining or preferably reducing the citizens’ out-of-pocket expenses. Continuing increases are not acceptable.
Specifically related to property taxes, we believe it is particularly important for the City to reduce expenditures in order to reduce the taxpayer’s out-of-pocket expense for Aberdeen City property taxes. We believe there are many potential options for reducing City expenses. Specifically, we request the City Council consider the following:
1. Eliminate give-away programs for businesses. For example, do not give reduced water/sewer hookup fees or property tax credits to a retirement community because they may not use all City services.
2. Reduction in City employees. Look at opportunities to eliminate or combine positions. Potentially the reduction could be done over time through attrition.
3. Employee furlough days. This tack has been adopted by the state of Maryland. Reducing income by 5 days pay is better than losing one’s job entirely.
4. Eliminate or restructure use of City owned vehicles.
5. Restructure City contribution to health insurance coverage.
6. Restructure the retirement system.
7. Budget from the top down. In other words, give each Department Head a fixed budget and they must determine how to manage within that budget.
8. Continue to look for opportunities to eliminate the annual loss on Ripkin Stadium.
9. Continue to seek new revenue sources, such as a hotel/motel tax.
10. Create a citizen committee to study the City budget/finances and make recommendations. This allows for citizen input, fresh ideas, and additional “free” resources to help with the challenging task of reducing City expenditures.
Thank you for your public service and your consideration in this matter.