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Posted on Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

Ed Koryzno advises implementation of five-year financial plan after his departure for Lansing

By Tom Perkins


Ed Koryzno is departing Ypsilanti after 16 years as city manager.

Tom Perkins | For

The City of Ypsilanti faces significant challenges, but departing City Manager Ed Koryzno believes City Council has adopted a plan that will save it from a crisis.

Successfully implementing that plan should be the top priority of the incoming interim and permanent city managers, Koryzno said.

Interim City Manager John Hansen steps into Koryzno’s shoes on Monday after Koryzno leaves the post he held in Ypsilanti for 16 years for a job with the state treasury.

“Council has adopted a plan for the next for the five years to address the city’s finances and my advice is to work hard to implement that plan,” he said. “I believe that the plan provides the necessary measures to meet the financial challenges.”

But the success of that plan is also largely up to voters who will be asked in May to approve a personal income tax and Water Street debt retirement millage. Their approval, mixed with some budget cuts, would help the city avoid a $10.69 million deficit projected for 2017.

Selling voters on the ballot measures is the toughest task facing the city in the coming months, but Koryzno said there aren’t any other options if residents want to see their city remain intact.

Because of how state law is set up, he said, the income tax is the only way to generate new revenues, and the debt millage is saving the city from having to make Water Street debt payments out of its general fund.

Without that, residents will not see the same city services they are used to, Koryzno said.

“It’s the only option we have,” he said. “The city cannot continue to cut its way to success.”

What cuts would be made and what services would go if the proposals failed would be decided by city council.

But Koryzno added: “I think Ypsilanti has a dedicated and interested populace that will not let the city fail.”

Despite the financial hurdles the city now must clear, the situation could have been much worse if the city hadn’t always planned for the long term and started implementing cost-saving measures nearly 10 years ago, Koryzno said.

The city first saw evidence in 1999 that its tax base was shrinking and state shared revenues would likely continue declining. That prompted early measures such as reductions in city staff and closure of the Parks and Recreation Department.

But the formation of “friends” groups that saved assets despite cuts - such as the Friends of the Rutherford Pool - indicate a strong sense of community critical to meeting challenges Koryzno said is unheard of in other communities around the state.

“The city must continue to create a sense of place and an urban environment that is walkable, is a place people want to live, where there are restaurants and other venues people want to be near,” Koryzno said.

He said he agrees with the statement that Ypsilanti is transforming into a more of a cultural city, and cited the renewal of downtown and West Cross Street as two immediate examples.

The city must continue down that path and continue focusing on the redevelopment of Water Street property, Koryzno said, and he believes the city should move forward with the proposed county-run recreation center.

He said key selling points to the county’s proposal are their willingness to build out infrastructure and be the first project on the property, which will help address some of the developers’ reservations.

“That leads to some certainty,” Koryzno said. “Infrastructure is always a major component of redevelopment, so with that question taken care of, the potential for development is better.”

Should redevelopment of Water Street fail, the tax proposals fail and the City of Ypsilanti appear on the brink of failure, it’s not inconceivable that Koryzno could be back advising the city on how to avoid state takeover.

In his new position as an administrator in the office fiscal responsibility, he will work with financially challenged municipalities to avoid takeover by an emergency manager.

But, for now, the move is bittersweet.

“Ypsilanti is the city I’ve been with the longest in my 30-plus year career, so it’s with mixed emotions that I leave,” he said.



Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 5:55 p.m.

The city was sold an unrealistic plan for the Water Street development and the administrators bought it. Poor research and poor decision on their part. Most of them are now gone and the citizens are paying the price.


Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

The city has really put us residents in a hard spot. Pay more taxes that most of us can't afford to keep it limping along because of excess spending (water street), or don't pay more taxes and probably lose our democratic representation.

Pete Murdock

Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

@Martin Church @Ellen Fact Check: There is no millage for Water Street. There is a debt obligation. If approved by voters, a debt retirement millage for Water Street would raise revenue to pay this obligation instead of using dollars that currently provide $1.3M of city services annually. Any tax revenues generated at Water Street through the Tax Increment Financing Plan are restricted to the debt payment and would reduce the amount of debt retirement millage necessary by that amount. The YCUA surcharge is no more a tax than your DTE and other utility bills. It is part of the rate structure that provides you and our entire community with clean, safe drinking water and protects our land and water from pollution by treating our waste. You could reduce YCUA costs by buying bottled water, but I think you would find that considerably more expensive.

joe golder

Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

A new tax on gas is being proposed for our deteriorating roads. Bridges are crumbling all over the state. There is a long list of things that will require tax dollars councilman Murdock! Many property owners here in Ypsi have and will be taxed out of here. Even if the city goes under home owners here will still be responsible for the the Water Street goof! The city is in great need of a meat market and giving a good portion of Water street to the county to build one isn't very responsible. If we are going to be responsible for the Water Street goof please find a way to punish the people responsible for it. Oh! and 16 years of plans that fell way short of working should send up a red flag! Please stop taxing people, they can't afford to pay for all the other taxes coming in the near future. I understand the less than few options council has, but this is like YCUA buying bottle water to fill a water tower with a hole in it!


Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 5:42 a.m.

As a long term Ypsi resident, I'm completely opposed to any further taxation. Our property taxes are already extremely high compared to other local cities, we have a semi-secret water tax (the 80% surcharge on your YCUA bill? that goes to the city) and we're already paying one Water Street millage. We've already had to learn to live with less in our personal budgets - the city can do the same. And before people begin the "cutting essential services" nonsense - let the fire department and the police department begin taking volunteers like other cities and villages do. Hire out some of the DPW services to private enterprises at the highest bidder. Eliminate health benefits for retirees. Let Washtenaw County build the rec center on the Water Street land and give them the chunk they want. In the long run, folks want to live less expensively, and won't move here - even if it's walkable and friendly and quirky and fun - if it costs them more money than to live in Ann Arbor. Any financial plan that depends on more money from taxpayers is nonsense - and NOT THEREFORE a financial plan at all. We voted it down 2:1 years ago, and nothing has changed. Instead of pretending that an income tax is a viable option, how about coming up with a workable plan?


Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

Ellen - the surcharge on our YCUA bills does not "go to the city" in any meaningful sense. The surcharge covers the bonds used to repair the city's (previously ancient) water and sewer system over the past decade. If it weren't for those improvements, we'd be paying instead for tearing up our streets a dozen times a year to fix water main breaks, for water that leaked through pipes into the ground without ever reaching our homes, etc. I'm also not sure what you mean when you say we're already paying a water street millage, and your suggestion to "eliminate health benefits for retirees" is illegal under the State Constitution. I wish there were such easy answers!

dading dont delete me bro

Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 2:01 a.m.

just wait til koryzno returns as ypsi's EM.

Martin Church

Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 1:58 a.m.

If we are to approve the water street debt plan. We the citizens of this city need and deserve something in the propsal that any revenue gain through the redevelopment of this property will be returned to the citizens in the form of tax reductions. It is time for the city to stop the waste and return our funds to the citizens. A Income tax will also have to have some form of tax return on our citizens. If not it must be turned down.


Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.

I recall reading an article just after former admin Roger Fraser from AA offered him a job, that the city 'found' an extra $9 million. But now everyone is to believe their going to be in a deficit come 2017? Wonder is Rog taught Koryzno everything he knew about hiding money in 'buckets'.


Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 1:12 p.m.

You might be talking about the city's reserves, which are no secret, and never have been -- Ypsilanti has been making cuts for years and saving what money it can, and has been very honest about this. The city has also been honest about the fact that reserves alone are not enough to magically fix all of its financial problems. Were it not for years of responsible management and building of reserves, the city's fiscal outlook would be much worse. You may call it conspiracy, but I see sound financial planning.

Glen S.

Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

Nobody likes the idea of paying more taxes, but the alternatives are unthinkable: According to the latest estimates (without any additional revenue) keeping the City financially solvent will require painful (and ever-deeper) cuts in each of the next five years. And since, as most people know, the City has already cut "non-essential" programs and personnel, the next rounds of cuts will inevitably result in a gutting of "core" services like Police and Fire — making our community an undesirable place to live, and leaving residents vulnerable. OR … if folks prefer, we could decide not to make these cuts — and instead face the appointment of an unelected, unaccountable "Emergency Manager," who would basically usurp all decision-making powers from our democratically-elected representatives; and have virtually unchecked powers to slash (or eliminate) City services, break contracts, and sell off key community assets (including our parks, the Freighthouse, Rutherford Pool, Parkridge Community Center, etc.) to the highest bidder. At this point it is clear that nobody else is going to save us. Washington D.C. isn't going to save us, and Lansing *certainly* isn't going to save us. If we're going to save our community, we're going to have to do it the same way we always do things in Ypsilanti: By rolling up our sleeves, and making it happen, ourselves. Again, the fact that the Mayor and THIS City Council have come together to support these two ballot measures is remarkable — and the clearest signal yet that the time has come for Ypsilanti residents to unite behind this opportunity to protect our community's financial integrity, to preserve core public safety services such as Police and Fire, and to make sure we keep local decision-making in the hands of our locally-elected, and locally-accountable, representatives.

Depot Town

Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

I live on a block with eight houses. In the past three years, four have been foreclosed. I can barely hang on now. If these taxes pass, I will lose my home. You talk about essential services. I consider having a place to live "essential". How do I roll up my sleeves and keep my house if it becomes too expensive to live here?