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Brentwood proposes property tax increase

2 May

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Brentwood is proposing higher property taxes and salary increases for town employees.
Mayor Roger E. Rudder introduced the town’s proposed $1.6 million budget for fiscal 2014 during the town council meeting Tuesday.
The proposal is a 1 percent decrease from this year’s budget, despite the inclusion of a 5 percent salary increase for town employees and a 7.5 percent salary increase for the town’s two full-time police officers.
The budget calls for a property tax rate of 41.1 cents per $100 of assessed property value, up from 38.6 cents, in line with the tax rate the state recommends for Brentwood to collect the same amount of property tax revenue it received in fiscal 2013.
The town’s property assessments have fallen by 6.4 percent as home values declined, mirroring a downward trend experienced by half of Prince George’s County in fiscal 2013, according to the state.
For a typical homeowner with a home worth $175,000, a property tax bill would be about $44 higher than this year’s.
Pamela Strother, one of the town’s 3,000-plus residents, said she was glad to hear the town proposal following the state recommendations for a tax increase.
“I would be concerned, as a resident, about a decrease in income otherwise because that means the town would have to make spending decisions on other items,” Strother said, referring to potential cuts.
The budget already anticipates spending about $11,000 less on public safety because the town expects less money from speed-camera fines as people become more aware of them and work harder to obey the speed limits, Rudder said.
“I’m not opposed to tax increases, period,” said Brentwood resident Dolores Pomerleau. “Nobody wants taxes to go up, but, on the other hand, other costs are going up. How else are we going to pay for them?”
As for the proposed salary increases for the 10 town employees, Rudder said they are about bringing employee salaries, especially those of the clerk and secretary, to rates comparable with other jurisdictions. Rudder also proposed the same salary increases last year, but the council voted it down due to economic concerns, he said. Rudder proposes increasing the treasurer’s salary to $68,000 from $60,000 and the clerk’s salary to $35,000 from $29,875.
Pomerleau said she approves of salary increases for town employees, adding that they are “grossly underpaid.”
“I support salary increases. I think the town employees do a tremendous job, especially the town clerk,” said Brentwood resident David Ruifork. “I always see town workers on the street, cleaning curbs and doing other things for the residents.”
The 7.5 percent salary increases for the police officers also include promoting one officer to sergeant so he can conduct business in the absence of the police chief, Rudder said.
Rudder called his proposed budget fair, but he said he had no idea if the council would approve it, since a new council will be involved after the May election.


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Brentwood, Maryland – a lot like DC!

24 Jan
January 22, 2013

Anne Warden and Dolores Pomerleau allege in a Prince George’s County Circuit Court lawsuit that $27,000 from Two Brentwood residents are claiming rules for the town’s home energy-efficiency program were broken when a former town councilwoman received nearly triple the grant amount that other residents received for home improvements.
Brentwood’s Green Home Initiative was approved for energy 
renovations made to the home of Marlene Robinson, who served 
on the Town Council from May 2005 to May 2011.
The program was set up to help low- and moderate-income 
homeowners cut down on energy costs. According to the initiative 
application, homeowners are eligible for “up to $10,000.”
“I think it is just not fair that a lot is going to one person,” Warden 
said.
The women — both of whom applied for the program and said they 
received $10,000 each in renovations — initially filed a complaint 
in October against Brentwood Mayor Roger E. Rudder and the Town 
Council; the complaint was updated Jan. 4 to add Robinson as a 
defendant, because the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Christopher Gowen, said they 
decided Robinson should have known her participation in the process 
was improper.
Gowen said he hopes to recover for the program any money that has 
been given to Robinson or town-selected contractor, Riverdale-based 
K&A Enterprises Inc., who Gowen said performed work on 
Robinson’s home. K&A Enterprises was one of several contractors 
tapped by the town to perform work on residents’ homes. The 
complaint does not ask for any damages to be awarded to the 
plaintiffs.
A person who answered the phone at K&A Enterprises declined 
to comment.
Robinson confirmed that energy-efficiency upgrades were performed 
on her home by K&A Enterprises, but said town officials negotiated 
the terms of the work without her involvement. She questioned the 
$27,000 work estimate, but declined to comment further.
Rudder declined to comment on the case, Robinson’s claim that she
wasn’t involved in negotiations or the guidelines for the energy grants
program. He said most of the $300,000 allotted for the program has been 
spent. Town Clerk Melora Anderson referred questions about the grants 
to Rudder.
The plaintiffs also allege that the grant for Robinson’s home violates the 
town charter’s conflict-of-interest guidelines, which state that town 
officials cannot participate in decisions and approvals in which they 
have a financial interest. The complaint states that the rule applies to 
future financial interests as well. The council received the grant in 2010, 
and in February 2011 K&A Enterprises Inc. was hired, among other 
contractors, to perform renovation services on homes while Robinson 
was still a council member.
In a response to the complaint filed in November, Town Attorney Jason 
DeLoach said town officials approved paying $27,000 for the work done 
to Robinson’s home and confirmed that no other resident received more 
than $10,000 from the program. However, DeLoach denied in the response 
that the application for the program stated that no resident could receive 
more than $10,000, and denied that officials violated the town charter or 
Maryland’s conflict-of-interest law. No additional details were provided 
in the response, and DeLoach did not return calls for comment.
The town received the money for the program through an Energy Efficiency 
and Conservation Block Grant from Prince George’s County, which was funded 
through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. According to the 
Memorandum of Understanding for the grant, at least 25 Brentwood households 
were to be selected for the grants, and the rest of money was to be used for the 
administration of the program.
Carol Terry, public information officer for the county’s Department of Environmental Resources, which issued the grant and oversaw the program, declined to comment due to the litigation.
The Gazette filed a Maryland Public Information Act Request on Nov. 7 requesting details regarding program spending, but the information has not been provided. Rudder wrote in a Dec. 18 email to The Gazette that the town is understaffed because it has no town administrator and only a part-time treasurer, causing a delay in the town’s response.
A pre-trial conference has been scheduled for April 23.
tsandoval@gazette.net