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Posted on Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Residents will notice a difference in Ann Arbor parks due to budget cuts, administrator says

By David Jesse

Ann Arbor city administrators were clear with City Council members on Monday night: Residents will notice the budget cuts needed to make up a shortfall next fiscal year.

Curbside pickup of Christmas trees during the holidays could be eliminated. Mowing the grass in city parks may happen less, and hand-trimming in the parks could stop altogether.


A jogger runs through Gallup Park in this file photo. Parks upkeep was the subject of a discussion at the Ann Arbor City Council meeting Monday night.

“The public will visually notice the difference in the parks,” said Sue McCormick, the public services area administrator.

McCormick spent most of the meeting at the podium walking through council members through budget scenarios and impacts for the areas she oversees, including street repairs, parks, street lights and utilities.

It was the latest in a series of budget meetings the council is holding with departments. Overall, the city says the budget must be cut by 7.5 percent.

The city’s budget has seen revenues drop sharply over the last two years - from what started as an $89.2 million balanced budget in fiscal year 2008-09 to a projected $76.1 million budget for the fiscal year starting in July.

At its current rate of spending, the city is on pace to go into next year with $81.3 million in expenses to account for. If the city can’t cut costs or raise revenues, it would dig itself a $5.2 million hole in 2010-11.

Among the items McCormick discussed were:

  • Special assessment districts could be established to pay for street lighting.
  • Although Ann Arbor has LED street lights it can turn down to save energy and costs, DTE doesn’t have the ability to meter the lights to provide savings to the city.
  • One of the biggest expenses to the city’s general fund in the parks area is mowing and snow removal, at more than $1.2 million combined.
  • The city extended its cycle of mowing this fiscal year to once every 19 days in its parks, on average over the season. In the next fiscal year, starting in July, it will increase that once every 23 days.
  • Unless the council is willing to give the Natural Area Preservation program a cut in the money it gets from the parks millage, the city plans to discontinue hand trimming in the parks.
  • The city is plans to stop curbside pickup of Christmas trees this year and instead either position chippers in parks or require residents to bring the trees to the city’s compost center.
  • City staff will begin exploring the privatization of the city’s residential trash pickup to make some sort of recommendation prior to the 2012 budget cycle.

David Jesse covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.



Thu, Jul 1, 2010 : 2:39 p.m.

Another city cost cutter = NO LEAF PICKUP this fall like we have known it for the last 30+ years. We will have to buy more brown containers at $50. a pop (after the bargain initial purchase of $25.) to put the leaves in and/or bag the leaves in the brown leaf bags we also will have to purchase (watch..there will be a run on these bags this fall and they will run out of them!!). The city crews will instead of pushing them around in the streets and payloadering them into dump trucks, will have to pick up the leaf bags and manually put them in the compost trucks!! Hmmm, wet, frozen leaves in paper bags.... I bet this will end up being reallly popular with the city residents!


Wed, Mar 10, 2010 : 7:59 p.m.

If there will be less service, will there be fewer employees? Or will the city close all the parks and still keep all the employees? Hpgdd1998, are you kidding? You're trying to convince citizens to believe you, an not the salary facts disclosed in the paper? Why would anyone even consider you as a credible source of information when you have such a vested interest in the outcome of budget cuts?


Wed, Mar 10, 2010 : 12:38 p.m.

I thought Mr. Kilpatrick resigned? On that note, I can only imagine Mr. Hieftje or any of our city council involved in ludicrous carnally-inspired scandals. Do you really think they are taking bribes? How come you're not whining about the real reason's we're in this financial mess: the collapse of the housing market, sketchy bank practices, corporate cost-cutting, and rampant federal spending overseas. In reality, Ann Arbor is a small town with small-town problems, where solutions only come from those willing to take the effort to make them happen - not cry about everything. If you really want political change in Ann Arbor, then please, offer a viable candidate. Otherwise, use your energy for constructive purposes, which is what we need to get through to the next bubble.


Wed, Mar 10, 2010 : 10:33 a.m.

@maccheese.... HA. Your posting to tell people to quite wasting their time (and yours) by posting? Never say Never! The people posting here did not create the deficit and provide poor fiscal management and planning. The city needs to address it financial issues with minimal impact on the citizens. That includes layoffs, no tax increase, wage cuts, etc. So, when articles like this come out - where the city is saying the "cuts" they are going to be making is cutting the cut time on the parks - that rings of the city trying to punish the citizens while they wag their finger at us. "This is what you get for not giving us more money.... Tsk. Tsk." So, of course people are going to pipe up. I hope more do. Tbe only way politicians are ever held accountable is when the citizens vote out the ones who do a bad job. Kwame is a perfect example....


Wed, Mar 10, 2010 : 1:03 a.m.

So, since this article is about city parks and services, let's brainstorm and come up with more ideas for our leaders to consider. This should be a brainstorm - no idea is too extreme to propose. But if you don't care for an idea, but want to provide negative commentary, offer three new ones of your own. 1.Whatever happened to the proposal to use Allmendinger Park as a parking lot on football Saturdays? 2.Why don't we hear about major golf tournaments at either of our courses? 3.Consider converting the flat area at Huron Hills to rows of cabins for short-term or long-term lease or even a campground? 4.Instead of household pickup of recyclables, why not have neighborhood drop off stations, at least for glass? 5.Can some neighborhoods have recycling every other week? Or one week of paper, the other of solids? 6.Why cant some portions of each park be converted to natural areas? Perhaps plant small areas with prairie seeds and let them grow throughout the year? Except for a mowed path down the middle, only a prescribed burn is necessary once a year for maintenance. 7.How about enforcing the stoop/scoop and dog leash laws in the parks and natural areas, with hefty penalties for those not in compliance? 8.Can we get corporate sponsors to subsidize our pools and skating rinks and permit them to put up signs on the boards, pool bottoms, or fences? 9.Why not sell carbonated Ann Arbor City Water or place bottled City Water in our park vending machines? 10.Look toward local food manufacturers to create pre-packaged, healthy snacks for park vending machines?


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 10:19 p.m.

2 items: CM Kunselman strongly objected to the transfer of compost to merchant-- RFP now out. Per CM such a poor market that yard waste going to land fill, not need more big trucks going through town, and in the end subsidize the company because we pay tax on the land they will use. Wrong action by public service manager. When the CM asked the manager why there is a large jump in Administration charges for next year, the answer was I will have to get back to you on that.


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 9:27 p.m.

Don't some of you have jobs??? That's the problem.. you are on here blogging daily and tearing apart the people that are working and comparing what their wages are to everyone else because you have nothing better to do. Perhaps YOU could volunteer to mow lawns in the parks, trim trees and help keep Ann Arbor up to your expectations instead of posting your useless daily rants about how city employees are overpaid. Use your negative energy for something positive and quit complaining about others jobs you know nothing about.


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 8:33 p.m.

@voiceofreason, You just made me laugh so hard I think I am going to pass out. Great post, right on the mark 100%. You point out how ridiculous the unions's stance is in this entire matter!!


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 6:46 p.m.

@bornnraised...totally manageable. All about making them aware of the call. Put a headset on, maybe an electric prod in there back pocket when a radio call comes in that shocks them. No different than when they are doing their grocery shopping. Dressed and ready to go with truck running by the curb. Maybe the electric prod will also get them off the dime and agree to pay a fare share of their benefits package.


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 6:45 p.m.

How can we be fiscally responsible if we aren't paying city employees the $103,000 "fair living wage"? These people might starve if we cut their pay! They have worked many long years to become entrenched and complacent, and certainly don't feel like returning any favors to the people who have subsidized their past/present good fortune! Instead......Blame management! Blame the public! Obfuscate! Change the subject! It doesn't matter if they preform a task that can be done easily by immigrants. Because they are in a union, they are automatically better than the taxpayers. Who cares if the city fails......we don't want these people to lose personal dignity by going from $103,000 to $97,000 a year! Oh the insanity!


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 5:40 p.m.

That is sad! My Parents have paid taxes for 41 yrs. in the same neighbourhood. Now too see an elder Man (70ish) across the street from their park mow it with his little mower. Where is the tax money going? And why do residents have to mow a park when it is in the taxes? This Man has been living there longer than my Parents. (1968) 41yrs.


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 5:26 p.m.

Those ideas of the FD mowing grass are great! I do have a couple of questions for the folks that created the plan. 1) Can you be sure to let the FD know when the 911 calls will come in ahead of time so they won't be caught in the middle of a field mowing the lawn and can't hear the radio? 2) How long can your brain last with oxygen in a cardiac arrest? Just wondering if you were going to equip the mowers with lights, sirens, medical equipment, and fire fighting gear? 3) What was that number that a fire doubles in size? And finally, would you be willing to pilot the program in your area first? I'm sure we won't hear any NIMBY comments about that, right? Great ideas... keep up the good work!


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 4:15 p.m.

ltpgb1998 Anecdotal posts regarding city worker compensation are of little value. The Budget Book reflects reality: $103,769 average per worker in 2010. City worker average pay is substantially greater than resident average pay. You can read about it at:

Adam Jaskiewicz

Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 3:30 p.m.

It's the flouride. We have to protect our precious bodily fluids!

Regular Voter

Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 3:08 p.m.

"Some semblance of fiscal responsibility." Exactly! The entrenched and collective resistance to clear common sense approaches is all but eradicated from the populace to the point we're all some sort of zombies who are immune to our needs being addressed and referenced as important priorities. Is it something they've put in the water? Wake up Good ole Ann Arbor!


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 3:06 p.m.

Please privatize the park maintenance. The park in my neighborhood has looked like crap for several years. It has to be better and cheaper if taken away from city employees. I also like the idea of the FD doing it in their free time. Might as well use that down time(which they are paid for) for something productive.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 1:47 p.m.

Edward, then why do people outside of Ann Arbor have to pay to recycle? In fact, they have to pay more than they would to contract someone to throw the trash into a landfill. Yes, some of the stuff gets bought in the end. But the cost of collecting and sorting is too high. This should not be subsidized by the taxpayers. Maybe we could solve the problem by turning these unmowed parks into landfills. Kidding, of course. I just want to see some semblance of true fiscal responsibility in our leadership.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 1 p.m.

The problem with recycling is that it costs a lot of money. The value of the recycled goods is negligible. So recycling becomes a tax. And this "streamlined" version becomes a bigger tax. It's economical to privatize what we can responsibly. I don't think it's our duty as taxpayers to have some sort of lottery for public jobs that carry permanent pensions and extraordinary benefits. Especially if it means our tax dollars will support more services, essentially contracting more people. People are not pets. They can and should take care of themselves. The city should not operate as an animal shelter.


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 12:31 p.m.

Solution spend $250,000 on a consulant


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 12:19 p.m.

Got to love it....The City of AA is going to cut back on park maintenance, a benefit to everyone, while they still have those golden benefits for the high priced management team. Clearly AA isn't a city for everyone. This is all about taking from the little guy and giving to the have's that are running the city into the ground. People, we need to vote out and replace the so called leadership team of AA.

glenn thompson

Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 11:44 a.m.

@just a home owner Council recently approved $6.5 million for the single stream recycle program. Now there is insufficient money to collect leaves, Christmas trees and have street lights. @genericreg The recycle program, at least the MRF, is operated by a private contractor. The city provides the capital investment, takes the risk, and the contractor gets paid to operate it. If something does not work out to the contractor's benefit they ask and receive more money. ( $1.3 million in 2006)

Adam Jaskiewicz

Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 11:42 a.m.

A recession is not the time to raise taxes. Cut costs, even if that means things will be a little scraggly. Encourage neighborhoods to organize work days to maintain the parks. Heck, the city could provide the beer and hot dogs. It would probably be cheaper than hiring a lawn-mowing service.


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 11:40 a.m.

Marvin, Most of the City operates efficiently but there exists enough waste and lazines that once eliminated can correct the financial deficit without the need for a tax increase. I do work for the City and speak from first hand experience. It also wouldn't hurt us to start paying more for our health care and accept a wage freeze.


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 11:39 a.m.

marvin Face, I wouldn't mind if my taxes were raised because the monies were spent well, however - the City of Ann Arbor has wasted more money than the citizens know of - all the monies on fighting grievances that they only lose anyways, that building on Stone School, the underground parking lot, the city building, the statue, need I go on.

just a homeowner

Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 11:32 a.m.

Marvin, I want to put my recycling in separate bins for pick up. But the city won't let me. The city wants me to put it in one bin, and then wants to spend several million dollars to implement this program. This is hardly about me being selfish with my money. And alongside that, what about the million dollar sculpture, the underground parking structure, etc.?

Marvin Face

Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 11:03 a.m.

We've all become pretty selfish with our money, haven't we. We like the curbside trash and recycling pickup, the leaf and Christmas tree pickup, we want pristine parks and smooth roads, etc. but are not willing to pay OUR money to support it all. In my opinion, it is not that the city is inefficient but rather that taxes have not been raised commensurate with income and inflation. We would all rather spend money on a bigger house, a newer or second car, vacations, flat-screen tv's, kitchen renovations and the like. Face the reality that a great community that we are all proud of costs money. I'm willing to have my taxes raised and have fewer luxury items to keep Ann Arbor a vibrant place to live and raise a family.


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 10:46 a.m.

@in4mation: I am glad there were only a few pieces of small trash in your neighborhood park. My comment was meant to turn attention to the money spent on paying people to keep the parks clean, rather that people just cleaning up after themselves, not that the parks are littered. Also, animal waste left behind can often suffocate the grass or plants which it lays on, which could lead to reseeding and replanting.

Old West Sider

Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 10:31 a.m.

That's just great now our parks will look like the city parks in Detroit

Bridget Bly

Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 10:10 a.m.

Okay, we have less money to maintain the parks. Got it. But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you let the grass go to weeds, you can replant it later, but if you sell the park land, it is gone forever. Ann Arbor is a beautiful city partly because of its parks. Let's keep our long-term assets, even if we have to let them go to seed a bit for the moment. Re privatization of services: this is generally a very short-term fix, with a very bad long-term prognosis. Signing a contract with a private company is just putting another layer of management (more overhead) between the taxpayers and the people who actually do the work. You may grumble about how much city workers make, but those are stable jobs that support families.


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 9:53 a.m.

How about turning parks and golf courses into local food farms, partnering with Project Grow, Food Gatherers, or other related organizations? Or lease the land to farmers, with food production going to local markets. How about using the front portion of Huron Hills for a residential high rise? The infrastructure is in place. There is plenty of green to surround it. Nice waterfront. Think Chicago, Ann Arbor. Build vertically along the river all through town. Vertical density could also be placed at Birdhills, Bluffs, etc., while preserving most of the natural features and avoiding sprawl... Think of it as suburban vertical density. PS sidebar: For all of the greenbelt dreamers... As I think of your dreamy and lofty goals and plans for greenspace along railroad tracks, I realize that Ann Arbor has an incredible greenbelt system in place. Most do not recognize it. It is the green lawn extension between a sidewalk and a street. Grasses, plantings, trees, shrubs etc. offer hundreds of lovely walkways through our nice neighborhoods. I'll walk these greenways anyday, as opposed to walking along the railroad tracks. The point of all this? There are many visions for Ann Arbor parks and greeenways that are never considered. There was never a developmental plan for the Ann Arbor park system. No master plan. Many acres of park were purchased due to NIMBY fear. Are Ann Arborites a bunch of change-fearing NIMBY chickens? If so, this does not make a great City or park system. It's a sign of a city in decline. What is the goal for parks? What is the plan? What is the need? What amount of parkland is appropriate for a city of 130,000? What amount of parkland is typical for a city of 130,000? How will Ann Arbor figure this out? Too bad the issue is really not about mowing the grass...

Regular Voter

Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 9:44 a.m.

Dysfunctional duo strikes again! Goodbye Fraser, Goodbye Heiftje. We will find new officials to clean up your mess, they will serve without your smug indifference to the citizens you disrespect.

just a homeowner

Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 9:43 a.m.

The recycling boondoggle! Wow. I forgot about that stupid, wasteful project. How many will it cost to implement? I bet that money could go a long way toward maintaining parks, employing cops, etc.


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 9:34 a.m.

"Ann Arbor city administrators were clear with City Council members on Monday night: Residents will notice the budget cuts needed to make up a shortfall next fiscal year." Is this supposed to scare us? The public has been asking for fiscal responsibility not the irresponsibility that has been going on and on. This just sounds like a silly scare tactic to push citizens into approving tax increases. How about serious cut backs (adjustment to the current employee pension program, higher copays for health care services, extended retirement eligibility, selling the parks we can no longer take care of, or even an across the board budget cut for all departments, etc.). And how about tax incentives to support current businesses and to attract new companies to Ann Arbor?


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 9:15 a.m.

perhaps if those who used the parks were more diligent about picking up after themselves, and their pets, there could be a significant savings. if we want to keep our parks in top shape, we could treat them with more respect.


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 9:01 a.m.

belboz, great idea to have the fire dept cut grass at the parks. The vast majority of their on-time work is spent sitting on their duffs waiting for something to happen. This would be a good way to get a work out, stay physcially fit and help cut the budget deficit. Or A2 could do what makes sense and privatize the entire process. With the economic slowdown lawn service companies are at eachothers throats with rate cuts. If A2 spends 1.2 million for mowing and snow removal at public parks, my guess is this would at least 300 to 400 grand if privatized. Then you could also get rid of perhaps 6 full time gov't employees and not have those future pension costs. A no brainer!


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 8:29 a.m.

this decision dpoesn't go far enough.It is now clear that the city must divest itself of property that needs maintenance and contributes nothing but care which we can ill afford.


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 7:49 a.m.

Frankly, Ann Arbor Parks were pretty dismal to begin with. Going to many rec-ed games and other events around towns, it is clear that mowing is about the ONLY thing done with our parks. I'd rather see cuts made elsewhere. Cut the number of police cars - get bikes. Cut any computer or technology upgrades that come along with the new city hall addition. Hopefully, they aren't getting any new furniture - bring the old... Or, have the police and fire department cut the parks. I'd certainly feel safe with a Police Officer mowing the lawn down the street.


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 7:29 a.m.

To AlphaAlpha - you obviously haven't been reading posts - the average city of Ann Arbor employee is not overpaid - the management people are the ones that are overpaid - the average of 61,000 was way off base - if you asked the employees, they would tell you that they wished they made 61,000.00. The employees aer the ones out there in the cold and snow plowing those roads in the middle of the night so YOU can get to work - don't blame the employees, blame management for creating this problem.


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 7:25 a.m.

Well, let's see - Sue McCormick doesn't live in Ann Arbor - she lives in Lansing, so why would she care about our parks. Maybe if she gave up her vehicle that the city provides her to get to work, that would save some monies for our parks. The residents of Ann Arbor approved a millage for our parks and the people up on top - Heifte, McCormick, & Fraser - just go ahead and give themselves bonuses and then blame the workers - how dare they - and when will you citizens of Ann Arbor quit thinking that Fraser is helping the city? All administrators in the recent years are there for one thing, and one thing only - a full pension after working just 5 years - what happened to hiring within? That way, the pension actually goes to someone who EARNED it!!!


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 7:14 a.m.

Don't worry Racerx. Republic uses the same kind of trucks. They could probably buy the city ones. Of course, they won't have the fancy multi-thousand dollar paint jobs. Private industry must save costs....


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 7:06 a.m.

The average city worker earns more than the average resident. How bad must service become before residents opt for city employee pay cuts instead of service cuts?


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 7 a.m.

How about we privatize mowing and snow removal? I bet there's a company that would mow and plow the parks for a lot less than $1.2 million. How about go to the voters and ask them to repurpose the greenbelt money? I am just itching to get rid of this mayor and my 2nd ward councilmembers. Please, please, let's get some alternative candidates.


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 6:14 a.m.

Three things jump out, 1)"At its current rate of spending" Cut spending. 2) As previously mentioned, taxing for basic services, street lights, McCormicks tried and true concept of which she's been pushing for years now. Why is this so important? Can a resident sue the city if something were to occur due to no streetlights? Like if a driver drove and hit someone due to the road not being adequately lit. Sure there's a trial lawyer frothing at the mouth for that one. 3)Privatize trash pickup. Oh, but hate to see the money loss on those new trucks that can pickup curbside with their arms.