CHESTERTOWN MAYOR AND COUNCIL
MAY 9, 2023
Mayor Foster called the meeting to order at 5:00 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers Tim O’Brien, Tom Herz, Jose Medrano and Meghan Efland, and W. S. Ingersoll, Town Manager, Amanda Miller, and Lynda Thomas, Town Clerk, and guests.
Ms. Miller reviewed a proposed utility rates increase with examples of the impact on residential households (using 10,000 gallons or less) at 5%, 7%, and 10%. The current rate was $85.00, which included the $15 bay fee.
5% $88.50 $3.50 increase (including bay fee)
7% $89.90 $4.90 increase (including bay fee)
10% $92.00 $7.00 increase (including bay fee)
Mr. Foster stated that the last increase was in 2018 and since then there had been more than a 10% increase in inflation. It was noted that even if utility rates increased by 10%, Chestertown would still be the lowest in the area. It was a consensus to increase the utility rate by 10%.
Ms. Miller reviewed the adjustments from the previous budget workshop, leaving $65,000 surplus in the general fund to work with. It was a consensus to leave the tax rate at the same rate as last year, $0.4332 (which is slightly above the theoretical constant yield rate of $0.4208).
Mr. Foster stated that he spoke with Ms. Shelley Heller, and she stated that Chestertown gets 100% of the hotel tax that is collected. For the record it was noted that Airbnb will not collect the tax and pass on to the towns.
Mr. O’Brien stated that he thought they made a commitment for salary adjustments that are not across the board but something from the department heads based on performance, certifications, and time in service. There was a discussion on various ways to handle salary adjustments.
Ms. Miller reviewed the requests from the community groups.
A&E Cultural asked for $17,000, which is the same amount funded for the last several years for the sole purpose to fund the salary for the part time manager of the district.
The Bayside Hoyas asked for $5000. They are currently in the budget at last year’s funding of $1000 and they are receiving $40,800 in ARPA funds for Juneteenth Festivals.
Environmental Committee requested $500 for Earth Day and $500 for the Environmental Committee. They received $1000 last year. She stated that Earth Day brings in its own money from vendors that pay to be there. It was noted that both have decent surpluses over and above what the Town gave them last year.
Ms. Miller noted that she is becoming overwhelmed with doing the bookkeeping for all the committees. It is a lot of extra work having to constantly keep spreadsheets for each committee on their revenues and expenses. She suggested that the committees take care of their own bookkeeping and come in in least once or twice a year to report on where they spent their money.
Mr. O’Brien stated that the Garden Club does an amazing job, and they do a lot of fundraising. He would like to give $500 to $1000 to the Garden Club and a $1000 to the Tree Committee, even though neither turned in requests.
Mr. O’Brien stated he would like to give the YMCA the $2500 they asked for.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the list should drop back to the groups that make the requests. It is a simple form to fill out that is submitted between March and May.
Ms. Efland asked if there could be an open community request fund, so that when groups stop in and ask for something specific during the year, the Town can fund it. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Town does have a mid-year request form with a maximum of $500.
Mr. Herz suggested to freeze everybody at last year’s funding levels and create a fund to give out when requested throughout the year. Ms. Miller stated that some groups had specific asks last year and she did not feel that specific asks amounts should be the same this year.
Mr. O’Brien stated that they should follow Amanda’s recommendation and put the Kent County Library back to the $1,000 and asked to fund the YMCA at their request of $2500.
Ms. Miller stated that the Kent County Library requested $5,000 for ADA compliant patio furniture. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Library is a partner in this community providing education and entertainment and a place where people can go to learn. Mr. O’Brien disagreed in giving the library $5000 because they are a County entity and they have Friends of the Library, which has their own private fundraising arm. Ms. Miller stated that the Farmer’s Market has Friends of the Farmer’s Market, and the Dog Park also has Friends of the Dog Park. Ms. Efland stated that the library is in Chestertown, and they are asking for funds specifically for the Chestertown branch. Mr. Herz stated that $5000 would be equivalent to $1 per for resident. It was agreed to fund the library at $2500 and the YMCA at $2500.
The Hoyas asked for $5000 in funding. Ms. Miller stated they are currently funded at $1000, and they received $40,800 in ARPA funds for Juneteenth Festivals. She noted that historically, the Hoyas ask for $5000 and have been funded $1000. Ms. Efland suggested to cut Juneteenth for now, but keep it on the radar, since they are getting $40,800 in ARPA money to cover that.
There was consensus to give Curb Appeal their request of $2000.
Ms. Miller stated that the Samaritan Group was funded $1000 last year but never used it and have not sent in a request for the current budget. There was a consensus to fund the Samaritan Group $1000 and if they do not use it again this year, they will remove it from the budget next year.
Ms. Miller stated the Rising Suns Group asked for $1000 last year but never used it and no request was submitted for funding this year.
Ms. Miller asked about the Christmas display winner payouts. There was a consensus to leave the funding in the budget and include a Halloween display winner payout.
The Downtown Chestertown Association (DCA) requested $1500. Ms. Miller stated that last year, they were allocated $1000 and only $200 was spent. Mr. O’Brien asked if there was a specific ask for the $1500. Ms. Miller noted that the purpose was to defray costs of promoting downtown businesses through the Marina tote bag giveaway and advertising. It was a consensus to leave them at $1000.
Mr. Somerville asked for $2,200 for Washington Park Day. It was noted that this is not an annual event. It is held every other year. Funds are for a live band, a moon bounce, port-a-pots and possibly the use of the stage. It was noted that the Recreation Committee was also asking for funds to pay for the band.
Mr. Foster stated that they previously turned down funding of block parties because they can become an endless series of fund requests.
Mr. Ingersoll suggested to let the Recreation Commission use their funding to pay for Washington Park Day. In the past, Washington Park and the Recreation Commission partnered together to fund the port-a-pots and moon bounce. This is the first time they are having a band. There was a consensus to give Washington Park Day $1000 and have the Recreation Commission cover the rest.
The Recreation Commission requested $5000. Ms. Miller stated that $1000 was allocated last year and they are receiving $113,000 in ARPA funds. The Recreation Commission reported that they are sponsoring a major June event called Saturday in the Park, planning to co-sponsor Washington Park Day and assisting other organizations in the town with recreational activities including Mainstreet, DCA and the YMCA.
Mr. O’Brien stated that he’d like to increase the funding to $5000 and direct the small groups like Washington Park Day to use those recreation funds. He said that if other groups would subsequently come forward, the Recreation Committee would be able to take care of them. By increasing the funding to $5000, the Recreation Commission could find plenty of uses for it with the small neighborhood activities, and events like Washington Park Day.
Ms. Miller stated that she received a new request, not in the budget, from Delmarva Craft (shuttle) for $5000. She noted, they also requested $20,000 from Kent County and $5000 from Rock Hall.
Ms. Miller related that the shuttle is a privately owned business that provides a variety of tourism development services throughout the upper Eastern Shore area that include transportation, Festival and Event planning, marketing and promotion, staffing, photo, video, drone audio podcasts, website, social media production and management. Ms. Efland noted that they also provide free services for nonprofits at reduced rates. Mr. Herz stated that the Shuttle just started last year and is working hard to perform a service for Chestertown and Rock Hall and would like to expand out to areas like Galena and Millington.
Mr. Herz recommended that the in considering the funding request, the Council should take note that Chestertown does not have the number of restaurants that would be optimal, and they can be open at odd hours. The shuttle provides a service for guests at the Chestertown Marina to get to Rock Hall where there are additional restaurants. The consensus was to fund the $5000, contingent on the County also providing funding.
Mr. O’Brien asked about setting aside $2000 to refresh the Christmas lights in fountain park and other areas around Chestertown. He stated that he had received suggestions from the Garden Club and that they could get volunteers to help decorate, they just needed the Town to purchase the lights. It was a consensus to purchase additional Christmas lights.
Mr. Foster asked about the plan for curbside recycling. Ms. Miller stated that it’s funded in the budget for the minimum amount for the 800 residents. Mr. Foster stated that he can see it costing the Town more, as more resident see they are doing a better job and more sign up. He asked where the money would come from for that increase. He stated that he would like to consider switching to charging the $12 a month fee. It was a consensus to remove the financial responsibility from the Town and transfer the curbside recycling to a paid service option under the Town contract (should the Contractor agree).
Mr. Foster reported on the setback of getting support from the County Commissioners to help fund a Tax Differential study. He stated he would like to fund the study at $6000. Ms. Efland asked when the study is complete, were the Commissioners going to accept or even acknowledge it. Mr. Herz stated that he believes that it would allow the Town to start having conversations with other towns like Denton and help build a level of consensus for change at the State level, since this is a political problem.
It was a consensus to fund $20,000 for a salary studies.
It was a consensus to fund $30,000 for a new furnace at Town Hall.
Ms. Miller stated that Mainstreet was allocated $61,000 for the last few years and was awarded $440,000 in ARPA funding. They also had three (3) proposals totaling $160,000 that are infrastructure-based proposals. Mr. Herz noted that the ARPA funding goes for a new stage, updating the irrigation system in Fountain Park, cleaning up the tree wells downtown, tourism, and other improvements to make Chestertown better. The $160,000 would go toward operations to administer grants on behalf of the town, security cameras, administer projects, improvements to infrastructure like facade, brick signage, cleaning tree wells, assisting with entities, event planning projects, initiatives, office supplies, professional fees, the masterplan, and marketing and website.
Ms. Efland suggested fund the normal $61,000 for Mainstreet and add $75,000 for the masterplan because it will benefit the Town. Ms. Miller asked how many phases there were to the plan and how many phases are the Council would be willing to fund. Mr. Herz stated that he thinks phase two is the implementation of the plan.
It was a consensus to increase the normal funding for Mainstreet to $70,000 and fund $75,000 for the masterplan and no funding for marketing.
There being no further business, Councilwoman Efland moved to adjourn the meeting at 7:48 pm. The motion was seconded by Councilman Herz and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Lynda Thomas, Town Clerk David Foster, Mayor
MAY 9, 2023
The Mayor and Council will hold a budget workshop session on
Tuesday, May 9th beginning at 5:00 p.m. in Town Hall.
The public is welcome to attend.