Fiscal prudence or business as usual: An April 15, 2020 choice for the Takoma Park City Council

For those who are watching City of Takoma Park finances, here’s a note I sent the council regarding an item on this evening’s city council agenda, April 15, 2020. Please consider weighing in yourself. Use or adapt my text if you wish, and we’ll see whether the council chooses fiscal prudence in light of the looming financial emergency, stemming from the Covid-19 crisis, or business as usual.

April 15, 2020

Mayor, councilmembers,

Please defer city purchase of a Recreation Dept. van, given the financial and program impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

We are only starting to come to grips with the loss of city revenue — FY20 as well as future years’ — in the current fiscal year: speed-camera funds, the amusement tax, the hotel & motel tax, parking fines, program revenues — and buying a new Rec van is hardly essential since the current van is still operational and will see no use before mid-summer and greatly reduced use at least through the fall if not into 2021. That the money would come from the Equipment Replacement Reserve makes no difference. The reserve is replenished from city revenues, a proposed $600,000 in FY21, so buying a new van now will take funds that could be redirected to other, pressing needs, in a time of great economic uncertainty.

Further, a delay will allow the City to fully examine all-electric alternatives for the eventual purchase, in accordance with the commitment made in the 2020 Climate Emergency Response Framework, passed by the City Council on March 4, 2020, to adopt “a policy of purchasing or leasing zero-emission vehicles for the city fleet.”

Thank you for your consideration.

Seth Grimes

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