Ann Arbor officials hear budget proposals for forestry, utilities, dams and attorney's office
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Ann Arbor officials continued discussions Monday night on how to close a projected $2.4 million general fund budget shortfall for the fiscal year starting July 1.
Sue McCormick, the city's public services area administrator, presented Ann Arbor City Council members with a series of options aimed at trimming the budget down to size.
Among them was a proposal to reallocate expenses for forestry operations to the stormwater utility fund, a move that could save the general fund nearly $660,000.
The proposal involves eliminating two vacant full-time forestry positions and contracting out tree trimming, planting and stump removal services.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
McCormick said she doesn't anticipate any service level reductions. Rather, she thinks it would result in more stable, long-term funding for the city's forestry program.
"The pressure in the general fund has been for reduction each year, and so that has taken its toll on the forestry operation to date," she said.
Council Member Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward, said he had concerns about the proposal, especially what looks to be a privatization of some forestry services.
"I don't think of that as privatization as much as logical use of contracted services to supplement our needs," McCormick said in response to Anglin's concern.
McCormick presented the council with more than $2 million in budget cutting options, mostly in the areas of field operations. Those cuts would be used partly to offset a $700,000 increase in spending within facilities over the next two years.
That includes projects like renovation and installation of new bathrooms inside city hall, along with more asbestos abatement and installation of new ceilings and lighting.
"All of us have experienced some of the issues with the bathrooms, the drains backing up," McCormick said. "The bathrooms are deplorable."
McCormick suggested the city spend an extra $77,235 a year to restore janitorial services inside city hall and the new police-courts building from three days a week to five days a week. She said the reduced frequency of service hasn't worked well.
"In fairly short order, we're going to be bringing a lot more people back to city hall, and we really need to acknowledge the fact that we have a facility that requires maintenance," she said. "We started out in the justice center with three-day service, and I think that is a recipe for decline."
McCormick proposed a reallocation of getDowntown go!passes to the alternative transportation fund, which would save $8,800 in the general fund.
She also highlighted $32,000 in expected savings from conversion of street lights to new energy efficient LEDs next year. The city could save another $158,000-plus from utilizing temporary labor for vacant positions in park operations, a budget analysis shows.
McCormick's plan reallocates more than $200,000 in costs from the city's general fund to the Metro Act Fund, including costs for graffiti removal, traffic island maintenance, and snow and ice control on sidewalks fronting city property. Those proposals go hand-in-hand with shifting $290,000 in sidewalk replacement expenses from the Metro Act Fund to the streets millage.
McCormick also laid out a plan for splitting up costs related to the city's four dams on the Huron River between the general fund, water fund and parks millage fund. Currently, about $240,195 is billed to the general fund and $88,938 to the water fund.
Next year, under McCormick's proposal, the general fund burden would fall to $215,819, the water fund burden would go down to $19,661 and the parks millage would pick up $90,101 in costs related to the Argo and Geddes dams, both of which create recreational impoundments.
McCormick also proposed rate increases for the city's water, sewer and stormwater utilities. A 3.36 percent increase is proposed for the water supply system starting July 1, along with a 4 percent increase for sewer and a 3.25 percent increase for stormwater.
McCormick told council members the city is expecting a $226,077 reduction in revenue from the city's solid waste millage next year, as well as $320,000 in waste contract cost increases. But the city expects to realize $597,452 in savings next year due to increased efficiencies for single-stream recycling at the city's Materials Recovery Facility.
Several other changes in solid waste are expected to save the city nearly $500,000 next year, including elimination of a full-time employee in tandem with a reduction of collection routes from seven to six, and implementation of an annual fee for downtown commercial trash carts.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
The city also expects to see $618,000 in one-time revenue from the sale of compost equipment. The city has outsourced compost operations to New York-based WeCare Organics.
McCormick said none of the changes in solid waste should impact service levels.
Toward the end of the meeting, McCormick highlighted more than $230,000 in costs the city expects to incur related to staffing provided for eight University of Michigan football games next season. That factors in the closure of Main Street at a cost of $8,900 per game.
If the university was willing to reimburse the city for those costs, McCormick said, the city would be able to direct those dollars to snow plowing, pothole repair and other street projects.
"The university has made it clear they will not pay," she told council members, adding the city has given up on even sending the university a bill at this point.
Several council members chimed in and said they want the city to make it a standard practice from now on to send the university a bill for those expenses.
"As least it's there on the record," said Council Member Stephen Rapundalo, D-2nd Ward.
"I would like to see it on the record. Absolutely," added Margie Teall, D-4th Ward.
City Attorney Stephen Postema addressed council members Monday night with his plans to trim about $47,000 from the city attorney's office next year.
That includes about $12,000 in equipment and supplies and $35,000 in savings that would be achieved by reallocating costs for an easement paralegal's time to the budgets of capital improvement projects that benefit from the work.
City Administrator Roger Fraser is expected to deliver his executive budget recommendations to council in April, followed by a vote to adopt the budget in May.
Fraser announced Monday night he'll be resigning in about two months.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529.