By Lydia Hurley
College Park residents joined the mayor and city council on June 24 for the city’s first ever in-person town hall meeting.
After Mayor Fazlul Kabir opened the meeting, City Manager Kenny Young gave an overview of the city’s budget for fiscal year 2024. The budget designates a $24.8 million general fund, $11.89 in capital improvement funding, debt service totaling $1.47 million, and $2.97 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
Residents had questions about the budget, which is nearly $41 million dollars, largely asking how tax breaks affect development. One resident asked if the city offered developers tax breaks, and a second resident asked about incentives to developers. Mayor Pro Tem Denise Mitchell (District 4) explained,“Yes we did phase a tax credit over five years for developers to come build in the city.”
Mitchell also responded to a resident who asked about tax credits for affordable housing. “Seniors and students are our most vulnerable residents, so affordable student housing is a priority,” she said.
Young noted that the City of College Park has the lowest tax rate in Prince George’s County. Michael Williams, the city’s economic development manager, explained that businesses coming to the city help maintain the low rate, since they take on more tax responsibility than residents. “Tax credits allow them to be able to operate 12 months of the year, even when school isn’t in session and students go home,” he said.
Another resident voiced concerns about student housing. “Is the city doing anything to assist students living in off-campus housing and apartment buildings?” she asked.
Councilmember Alan Hew (District 1) said after the meeting that he would like to put together an off-campus orientation guide for students who move into houses in city neighborhoods.
“I have done this with my neighbors in the past; over beers, I’ll sit down with them and tell them about how to live well in College Park, and it’s been very helpful,” he said.
Resident Christine O’Brien noted the lack of sit-down restaurants in the city. Williams responded that ARPA grants might allow small businesses to remain in the city and noted that the council is working on retaining businesses.
“We want to help them, which in turn, helps us,” he said
Resident Carol Magnus voiced concern that too much of the city’s communications are digital, and suggested increasing the number of public bulletin boards. Councilmember Stuart Adams (District 3) suggested adding a list of upcoming events and construction projects in the College Park Here & Now.
Karyn Keating, who is a member of the Berwyn District Civic Association, thanked the council for holding the meeting and recommended that the city host town halls more often.