Ed Koryzno advises implementation of five-year financial plan after his departure for Lansing
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
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.