Ann Arbor firefighters officially notified of layoffs, more cuts already proposed to police and fire budgets
Layoff notices have been sent out to 13 Ann Arbor firefighters who will lose their jobs effective Jan. 4, City Administrator Roger Fraser said today.
Another vacant firefighter position will go unfilled in an effort to save about $400,000 between now and June by having 14 fewer on the payroll.
Fraser said it wasn't an easy choice, but it was one that had to be made.
Ryan J. Stanton | Ann Arbor.com
"The whole business of having to make reductions in the organization is as uncomfortable as can be," he said. "And any time it impacts anybody, it makes you lose sleep at night -Â I don't know how else to say it."
More than $3 million in mid-year cuts are being implemented by Fraser. The city also will save $811,475 by not filling several vacancies in the police department. When the city offered buyouts to officers this year, it expected 18 to go, but 24 took the offer.
Cuts to public safety may not stop there. Fraser announced today he has directed the police department to come up with options for trimming an additional $2 million from its budget by the next fiscal year beginning in July. The fire department also must come up with a plan for trimming another $1 million.
For the 2011-12 fiscal year, Fraser said both departments are being asked to dig further and cut the same amounts from their budgets.
"By the time you add all that up, you're talking about some significant reductions," Fraser said.
He noted the city has been working toward increasing efficiencies for the last seven years, and now mostly jobs and important services are on the chopping block.
Public safety currently represents about 48 percent of the city's $83.2 million general fund budget. Fraser said cuts to the police and fire departments aren't ideal, but in the absence of additional revenue, they're unavoidable. The city must trim its budget by 30 percent over three years to address falling property tax revenues and declines in state revenue sharing.
Mayor John Hieftje agreed it may be hard to avoid more cuts to public safety in the months ahead.
"As we look at the budget, it's pretty much near impossible to make cuts without affecting safety services that are half of the budget," he said. "You can't take 30 percent out of half of your budget."
Police Chief Barnett Jones, the city's safety services administrator, said it'll be tough to avoid jeopardizing safety services with cuts that deep.
"Realistically, that'll be impossible because that's just bodies," he said. "There's nothing else left to cut. There's no fat in either of those departments and it's just service people and programs, so I'm going to go through the exercise of creating the reduction match and hopefully I don't have to go through with that."
Jones said he'll be working on the police department's plan for proposed cuts. The city is in the process of considering five candidates for the vacant fire chief position to replace former Chief Samuel Hopkins, who retired in September. Jones said the new chief would start in January and work on the fire department's reduction plan for the coming fiscal year.
"I'm hoping that we don't wind up with any more cuts in either service, but I understand that Ann Arbor is like every other city in this state right now and there's revenue problems," Jones said. "I'll be trying to come up with any idea I can come up with to avoid this ... because we're as thin and lean as we can get, and any further reductions on either side might become a safety concern for all of us."
Fraser said he plans to hold a special working session sometime in January with the City Council to further discuss the city's budget problems. He said an executive report based on discussions at Saturday's budget retreat should be finished sometime next week and will detail the options on the table.
City officials have been mainly discussing ways to cut expenses in light of falling revenues, but not much talk has centered on increasing revenues. Fraser acknowledges some hesitancy about asking voters to approve more taxes, but says a city income tax and a Headlee Amendment override are still on the table.
The city's projections show a city income tax - at the bare minimum - could increase city revenues by $7.6 million or more, even after factoring in a decrease in property taxes that would go in tandem with the tax. City officials say that would increase revenues while shifting some of the city's tax burden off of residents onto people who commute to Ann Arbor for work.
The Headlee override is another option that might be less cumbersome for the city but would mean a tax hike for residents. The city's charter gives the City Council authority to levy up to 7.5 mills for operations, but a combination of two state laws - Headlee and Proposal A - effectively reduces that cap each year. A Headlee override, if approved by voters, would suspend state law and reset the bar to 7.5 mills. That could raise $6.5 million or more in new revenues.
Fraser said Ann Arbor residents need to take a close look at what's happening to city services and decide what they value and how much they're willing to pay.
"Citizens are not willing to pay more taxes unless they're feeling some discomfort over the way things are," he said.
City officials continue to work toward pay cuts and reductions in spending for employee benefits. The mayor proposed a 3 percent pay cut for all city employees that is being taken to the table in negotiations with the city's unions.
Fraser, who has not seen an increase in his salary since 2005, said even he and his administrators aren't exempt from pay cut considerations.
"I'm not personally anxious to do that, but if that's what we have to do, that's what we have to do," he said. "There are none of us that are exempt."
Fraser indicated at last Saturday's city budget retreat that the city is working to modify the costs of employee health care. An analysis of city employee compensation shows, for example, that the average firefighter in Ann Arbor receives more than $100,000 a year in pay and benefits. As one example, a firefighter making $63,624 this year in salary also is provided $42,468 worth of benefits and other compensation.
"We believe there are some things we need to do to fine-tune our costs on our benefit programs," Fraser said. "We recognize that, to a degree, we are above the market in terms of the benefits that we pay and the cost of those benefits, but I doubt it's as extreme as some folks in the community suggest. We're not that far out of whack."
Ryan J. Stanton covers government for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529.
Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 5:30 a.m.
Has anyone studied the statistics for response times and actually done an analysis of on call firefighter staffing patterns etc to determine the impact? I agree sending home firefighters is a poor choice if their department is not bloated.. would rather see cops go and be replaced with lower paid watchment. Choosing art over safety makes me think someone is living in a fantasy land :( Although I do feel minimal gov. is good but not if the departments ability to respond within some margin what is acceptable is affected by the cut. Regarding UofM paying.. why not commit an ordinance or something requiring the facility to handle more security issues in house? If someone does something stupid in a dorm or on campus shouldn't it be vetted through their own security staff first? Depending on the severity of the issue couldn't the police department defer to security first and require a high level of response for non-critical situations before sending out a patrolman? Why not just charge the UofM for response services that could have been handled by them. Since they seem to be reducing the force size for cops and firefighters why not take another look at the deal with Scio township who could take advantages of AnnArbors forces via an agreement. That option was dismissed by Scio originally because AnnArbors proposed agreement offered more than Scio township needed. Now it looks like Scio's chosen path of a more minimalist requirement is coming to AnnArbor by force due to lack of budget. Why not keep a few guys and rekindle the deal with Scio but on Scio's terms according to their goals to keep taxes lower. The comment someone made about the word art being on a bike stand kind of ticks me off.. Did the city pay for that? Wouldn't it be nicer just to have a bike stand be a bike stand and not art propaganda? Does art really need to invade every tangible piece of equipment? Hopefully no one actually paid for that. I'm of the opinion that art should be welcome but a city budget to push art? I think we do need to strive to be minimal, intelligent, and responsive. With all the blather going on with the municipality I don't feel were effecting change here in a timely and responsible matter. Hear is a quote from Seinfeld, George: Cops. I don't even care about cops. I wanna see more garbage men. It's much more important. All I wanna see are garbage trucks, garbage cans and garbage men. You're never gonna stop crime, we should at least be clean. Jerry: I tell you what they should do, they should combine the two jobs, make it one job, 'cop\garbage man'. I always see cops walking around with nothing to do. Grab a broom! Start sweeping. You sweep sweep sweep... catch a criminal, get right back to sweeping. Elaine: You should run for mayor. Jerry: Ehh, nobody listens.
Sun, May 16, 2010 : 10:57 p.m.
Hmmm....seems no one ever pays attention to police cuts or any emergency personnnel cuts until you actually need them and then the seconds of delay because of shortages matter!! How much is that worth...a delay in getting someone to rescue your child,your wife or family member...a delay in giving emergency assistance to someone you know or care about to save his or her life? Time to reprioritize before we have to wonder and wish we had paid more attention! Wake up Ann Arbor...
Fri, Mar 19, 2010 : 3:22 a.m.
The answer is obvious to me, tap into the billion dollar gold M university corporation that occupies a majority of the downtown area. $2 million or $4 million is a drop in the bucket to this college that seems to think the entire community needs to bend over and kiss it's behind. Time for the U of M to donate something back to the city. That seems to be a logical choice.
Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 9:08 p.m.
@bruno_uno. I wonder... have you read the other comments here? Where do you get that the firefighters are unwilling to take pay cuts? Where are you getting your facts from? Seems to me that the city is the one pushing out the bad press about their own FD. But the FD is trying to get the truth out. Did you read somewhere that the FD SAID they thought they were untouchable? Because all I read is that the FD is trying to keep trucks on the road. Hope that crow tastes good when the truth comes out that they have in fact taken pay cuts on a voluntary basis. Then let's see how much more you are willing to march behind Fraser and his lies.
Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 8:22 p.m.
yes firefighters....you are not untouchable in this economic paradigm shift...teacher unions and public sector unions, this is a fight you will not win.
Todd W. Grant
Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 5:38 p.m.
As I was reading the article on page A5 of Sundays Ann Arbor.com about the City of Ann Arbor having to layoff 13 of its firefighters in order to balance its budget, I wondered again at the long-range planning of our governing fathers (and mothers). We dont have enough money for firefighters, and we dont have enough money to replace one of our main bridges (over Stadium at South State Street) (a bridge which has been decrepit for at least 15 years and a concern since the early 1980's). But, we DO have enough money to dig a big hole in the ground for underground parking by the downtown library (in contrast to building a much cheaper above-ground parking deck) and we DO have enough money for cute Victorian lights along our downtown sidewalks. Am I the only one who thinks that this is nuts?
Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 11:53 a.m.
I agree, the FD should be willing to give up something in order to save their co-workers jobs. BUT, would YOU agree to a pay cut if the city was telling you that they would only THINK about not going forward with the lay-off's anyway in another 6 months? What is the point really? These guys just want to keep staffing levels where they are, keep stations open, trucks on the road and YOU SAFE! And honestly, keep themselves safe. If their staffing levels drop, the ones who keep their jobs are the ones left to do the work under-staffed and no firefighter wants to work on a defensive department. It is not why they became firefighters in the first place.
Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 11:27 a.m.
@stunhsif... maybe you should read all the comments. Well, no, just read this one since I'm involved with the whole process and the rest of the people seem to be drinking the kool-aid that Fraser is serving. I've said it time and time again... THE FD NEVER WAS AGAINST PAY CUTS! For those of you that want it shorter... NEVER! The issue that the FD is fighting is the closing of more fire stations and the idling of more trucks. Last round of cuts, they closed one station and took 2 trucks out of service in the city. This time it will be AT LEAST one more station closing. The issue that the FD is taking to negotiations is: What do we need to do to keep these trucks on the road? The response of the city was they want around 25% and THEN they will still be making cuts. That's the issue on the table. I don't know why so many people refuse to listen to the facts and will only listen to the side of the city. I mean, true, the city has spent our money and made such great decisions in the past, so why shouldn't we just take them at their word for everything, right?
Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 10:02 a.m.
If the firefighters themselves don't care about saving their co-workers jobs, why should I. The firefighters care only about themselves, their pay and benefits.Shame on them for not taking a reasonable pay and benefit cut ( like everyone else has done)to save their coworkers jobs and keep the public safe with good staffing levels.
Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 12:51 a.m.
@djm12652: Sorry, I haven't been reading this thread. The "budget retreat" was the all-day meeting between city council and administrators held last week at the Wheeler Center.
Sat, Dec 12, 2009 : 8:33 a.m.
One of the problems with funding these services (police and fire) is that most of us never use them. My son's life was saved by the fire department and, at another time, they assisted in saving mine. I know how important they are. Did you know that there are now times when the police department has TWO officers in cars for the entire city of Ann Arbor? Sound like enough to you?
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 10:02 p.m.
Raising property taxes will not fly. They are an unfair tax in today's economy. Why do you think so many homes are being lost? If a person loses their job the property tax continues on and on and on and then penalties add to the problem. One of the comments stated that the income tax would garner 7.5 million even as the property tax declines. It just shows you how fairer an income tax is and you wouldn't worry about a University not paying property taxes.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 8:40 p.m.
Yet the City of Ann Arbor has 270,000 dollars to give to HVA for fire dispatching. $100,000 for each year(2 years) and $70,000 in start up fees. Anyone else see a problem with this? Mighty fine time to join a "central dispatch" system ain't it? This was not even a decision that was done by the Fire Chief, and the Police Chief even went on record in an article put right here on Mlive were he said they did not even know if it was going to work but they were going to find out. Tell me again what was wrong with AAPD doing the dispatching? Seriously? They could have just stayed there and not forked out $270,000. Instead they do that, cut 14 firefighters and additional station. How sad, I mean how sad. The people in Ann Arbor should be OUTRAGED!!! They don't realize how this is going to affect a call when you call 911 to report a fire and or a medical emergency. A great fire department should not have to see this. This city should rally behind their fire department and get these jobs back. Make the cuts elsewhere. Water department, parks and recs, administration secretaries and the such.....there were more places they could have looked but it is clear there was an agenda put into place and it is against the Fire Department.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 3:17 p.m.
For those of you that would actually be interested in the facts of what the fire department does: http://www.iaff-local693.org/docs/What%20we%20do.doc
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 2:45 p.m.
Can anyone give some insight on why the AAPD reserve officer program of the 1980s did not work out? Nowayjose- Why is Ann Arbor so different then the many other cities in our area or even cities larger than ours that use some type of reserve officer system for it not to work here?
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 2:35 p.m.
Is it possible to privatize the fire dept?.I wonder how hard headed they,the union would be if they did that,worth looking into.Wow 100k to sit on your butt for 75% of the time.If the u of m won't help with the costs then the next time there is a fire on u property don't send the trucks.I'll bet they would pay then.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 2:28 p.m.
Baker, AAPD had a reserve system in the 80's it didn't work, so they got rid of it. I may work in other areas, but its just not going to happen here. I'm not angry about it. I just don't believe a reserve system is going to make the city any safer. Like I said if and when it happens you can say you told me so.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 12:58 p.m.
@Moose: Here's a link to a University Record story about the $400,000 fire engine gift from UM to the City: http://www.ur.umich.edu/0102/May06_02/13.htm I'm pretty certain I recall seeing the actual truck at a fire department open house at City Hall, and also a photo-op story for the politicians in the Ann Arbor News.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 12:57 p.m.
Marvin - Can you do that? Select a group of people and slap a tax on them? I'm trying to think of another group of people comparable to students and i don't know if I can. Can you set up a tax for people that buy bicycles so when one is purchased they must pay a certain tax? I don't know, it sounds a little strange to me. if possible I'm all in favor of taxing the University and it's students/staff...count me in.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 12:49 p.m.
Rather than whining and compalaining about service cuts and complaining about the mayor or council or staff, I have offered a real solution: Tax student's university tuition. Some rough back of napkin calculations based on 2009 in and out of state enrollment numbers and average tuition paid by undergrads and grad students show that taxing UM students tuition at 1/2% will yield approximately $4.6 million in additional revenue annually. Taxing them at 1% will yield approximately $9,2 million annually. This would raise the average in-state undergrad tuition $58 per year.
Ryan J. Stanton
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 12:47 p.m.
I'm hearing through the grapevine that the city and the firefighters union made great progress in negotiations yesterday. From what I heard, it sounds like they are going to have details on a new contract for the union membership to vote on. Stay tuned.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 12:28 p.m.
@ aataxpayer - "Business owners are opposed because it makes it harder to hire employees.." Is your business actually having trouble finding employess with the highest unemployment rate? I mean...really? Also - "No city income tax? That's because Fraser, McCormick, Jones and other city heads don't live in A2 and this tax would affect them." Fraser is the one who came up with the idea of the city income tax.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 12:25 p.m.
Moose, thats hateful to be kind. Fire contracts are not flush with expensive benefits. judging from the city's budget. Our firefighters are paid a fair wage. If you know how to help the cost of healthcare. Washington needs you right now. Nor have they claimed to be heroes. Firefighters seem to do the opposite. They shun those pointless accolades. Nor have I seen anything to indicate they have any political muscle among either us or our elected officials. Quite the opposite seems true. We citizens have made alot of foolish spending decisions. both by voteing and by our non-involvement in public discourse. This is what has come home to roost.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 11:13 a.m.
Actually, when Fraser was hired, City Council offered him $30,000, over and above his salary, to find a suitable residence in the city limits. He said that he couldn't find anything suitable and needed a big yard for his dogs (everybody.... awwwwww). He took the money and then bought a home in the townships.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 11:10 a.m.
@jhcer. Yes FRaser lives in one of the townships and taxpayers give him around $4000 a year to gas and maintain his BMW SUV, and his BMW convertible.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 11:02 a.m.
This from another local blog. I don't disagree, but the subject is dense and complicated. So here's another log for the fire. (pun intended) Maybe it wouldnt be that much if the firefighters had not 1) Gamed the generous sick time, vacation time, comp time, and overtime rules built into their sweetheart contracts that were supported and approved by politicians who benefited from their political money and muscle. Indeed this was common from Chiefs on down and resulted in disproportionate large pensions, as has often been reported, and leading to the impression that this is par for all city workers. 2) Imagined and promoted themselves as heroes riding on 9/11, when the fact is that Ann Arbor has a comparatively lower rate of large and dangerous fires than other communities where firefighters are paid less. 3) Screamed bloody murder, used scare tactics and political muscle every time anyone breathed pay and benefit cuts in contract negotiations. To a lesser extent this also applies to the AAPD because of the comp/sick/vacation and ot provisions in their union contracts as well. Other city unions and public employees were always portrayed as the scammers while the Safety Services consumed more of the pay and bennie budget and resulted in pensions far larger than AFSCME, other unions and non union employees as well. Now the chickens are coming home to roost because of their greed and bloated egos.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 10:54 a.m.
That should say aren't thrilled.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 10:38 a.m.
WAIT A MINUTE.......FRASER DOES NOT LIVE IN ANN ARBOR!?!?!?!!??? No wonder he doesn't care if the Police and Firefighters are cut to dangerously low numbers. He gets to drive in and right back out of the city, big deal if the rest of us have to worry about increased crime and slower response times. How is it that a city administrator does not live in the city? Where is the vested interest here short of him keeping his job? Living in the city should be a requirement as far as I am concerned. Let his family live in a city with inadequate staffing of police and fire. Honestly.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 10:34 a.m.
The CHANGE has come.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 10:18 a.m.
@Ryan A few posters on this thread mentioned the UM fire truck donation. I've heard from city hall insiders that the UM made a monetary donation to buy the truck. The city took the money and spread it around in various funds and the new truck was never purchased. Where is this truck? Does it exist? Was the money used for other purposes?
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 10:11 a.m.
MG, the "Greenbelt money" is designated for the purchase of land by way of the millage that funds it. As such, it can't be used for anything else. The City could stop collecting the tax or rescind it (it's a 30-year deal) but it can't simply re-route the money elsewhere. It would be interesting to see if Ann Arbor voters would still be willing to fund the Greenbelt purchases, or if given the opportunity (through a vote), reallocate the money to pay for city services.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 8:55 a.m.
Lansing Firefighters made serious concessions. There were some interesting ideas. Here is the link to the article: http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/article/20091208/NEWS01/912080323/1001/NEWS
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 8:44 a.m.
Ann Arbor has its current population of police and firefighters because that is what is deemed necessary to perform these services. In fact, it may already be too low. It always surprises me to see the city always making these "visible" cuts to portray their budget story. Seems like they are cutting the very services which should be near last on the cut list. Isn't the basic function of a good city government to provide Police and Fire protection (not to mention garbage, street lights, etc)? I'd like to see the City start acting like they are fiscally responsible during a economic recession. The following list is a good start: - Dissolve the useless Green Belt program and put the money in bridging the budget problems for Police and Fire for several years until the economy improves. Do people realize how many millions of unspent dollars are in this fund? This was the most worthless and wasteful initiative in Ann Arbor history. Maybe this is something that the voters can organize for the next ballet. - Stop building large city projects in the middle of a recession (i.e., City Hall). In fact, this could be another item for the next ballet so the city is halted from doing these kinds of projects without voter approval. - Cut the art budget out of new building projects until the economy improves. Wouldn't you rather cut a few art projects out of the budget than Police and Fire positions? - Stop increasing the cost of city services to make up for incompetence in budget management. - Stop looking to charge for basic city services like street lights (this was actually proposed and defeated several years ago). This also includes the proposal to charge the water treatment plant for "police services" in order to raise water rates.
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 5:54 a.m.
I live and rent an apartment here-my revenues already are here. I do NOT think it is fair to charge me 1% tax and say it is for the commuters that work in Ann Arbor. They will only have to pay 1/2% tax and the only thing you will do is drive renters out of Ann Arbor and have even less revenues. My management compant won't refund anything to me, and I'll be out 1% besides. Might as well drive 45 min and put 1% into Ann Arbor as gas $
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 3:03 a.m.
So, if I work for UM and don't live in the city, I'll have to pay taxes to upkeep sidewalks in neighborhoods I don't use? I'll have to pay taxes on a variety of other city services that I don't use, simply for the fact that I don't live in the city? Meanwhile, those who do, will have their property taxes (taxes that are assessed for these city services because these indiviuals live in the city) reduced. Oh yea, that seems very fair. Commuters get taxed for just coming into the city while it's questionable to even quantify what services these commuters even use?!? If I spend 8hrs a day in a UM office building, which UM pays the heat, water for, use a half hour for lunch which might take me to a local food establishment, thus, contributing to their bottom line due to the fact I'm a commuter, leave at the end of my day to drive on roads provided by the State, oh yea, I want to contribute to A2's city services like a non-performing golf course, a 600 space parking garage (of which I'll never use since I pay the U' to park my buggy), a senior center (though I'm nowhere near retirement age) a school pool (I can't even swim!). What about a resturant tax? This seems fair to those who come to A2 to eat? Oh, but the Mainstreet Association, DDA, Chamber of Commerce lobby would quickly veto that proposal. The time to put out a fire is not when you see the flames, but when you see the smoke. A2 has long known about their budget woes but spent freely like drunken sailors on leave. Thankfully UM has it's own police force, though if a fire occurs my life might still be in jeapody since the Mayor, City Adminstrator and the Safety Services Admin. acknowledges that these cuts will bring a safety concern. How does a golfer on a golf course in the winter keep me safe? How does a senior playing Bingo in a city run center put out a fire? How does a car renting a space for $1.20 an hour stop a burglar from ripping off a homeowner who's taxes have just been reduced? (while a patrol car sits underneath a bridge by the Gandy Dancer).
Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 1:57 a.m.
Baker,I agree with you 100%. Reserve Police officers are a great idea, they provide a great deal of services to their communities. Every Police officer that I have talked to about the reserves that they work with have nothing but good things to say about them. Many cities in Michigan use them with great The success.The people that are against this idea have not really researched it enough to make an informed decision. The City of Jackson has used reserves for quite some time,and have had tremendous success. I think this idea should be explored further.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:39 p.m.
nowayjose- I have no problem with reverse officers. I believe Saline, Milan, Washtenaw county sheriff (http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/sheriff/divisions/police/police-services ) and Pittsfield Township all use them and I have not heard of any issues. So we are already around them and most people probably did not even know it. Here is the link to the Milford Police reserve program: http://www.milfordpolice.com/reserve%20page.htm which seems like a logical program. What a reverse office does varies by dept. Some city require them to go to a police academy and other cities just use them in unarmed and unsworn capacity for thing like crowed control. MI law outlines the role of reserve officers also. Since I have a CPL I have no problem with licensed and trained citizens carrying a gun. We should scientifically look into all options to fix the budget not be so dismissive of any idea.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:15 p.m.
"The art fund was broken down at the council meeting on Monday night. Not a penny of it was from the general fund so it can't be spent on the AAFD or PD." Perhaps not directly, but Council could abolish One Percent for Art and return all the art money to the funds (like streets, water, sewer and parks) from which it came. "And before someone says it: The council can't break into the restricted funds. Almost all of the money comes from dedicated millages (art in the park!) or fees for things like sewers. The council can't change state law or the decisions of the voters." No, but if Council can create One Percent for Art, why can't they create "One Percent for Public Safety?"
Ryan J. Stanton
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 9:49 p.m.
I wrote a story back in July when talks started picking up on the income tax idea. The council decided to postpone it shortly thereafter but there have been discussions lately of bringing it back to the table. It's worth reading the city's prepared income tax study and this frequently asked questions sheet before forming an opinion on a city income tax. There are a lot of pros and cons to weigh with it. It's important to note it wouldn't just be an added tax. Under stipulations in the city's charter, property taxes would be reduced significantly if an income tax takes effect and that may actually mean a net decrease in taxes paid by many city residents (even with the added income tax) while commuters who work here but don't pay taxes currently would start to carry some of the burden.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 9:44 p.m.
Maybe the idea of a metropolitan police and fire department needs to be revisited and looked at seriously this time. Consolidating services may not be a bad idea...
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 9:40 p.m.
For the folks tossing around the idea of adding volunteer firefighters keep a few things in mind. Yes there is a financially beneficial side, but there are also some down sides. 1st Is finding people to do it. There are not that many people willing to crawl into a burning building, pull body parts out of a wrecked car, or able to deal with the hundreds of other icky and uncomfortable things a firefighter does. 2nd You have to train them. By time they have their state Firefighter cert, medical cert, hazmat cert, and driving cert you are looking at almost a year and a half of a new recruits time. That is just the basic requirements and what you have to have to earn the title of Probationary Firefighter. And all that has to happen before they can do anything. That costs $$ and time. 3rd You have to equip them. The law requires the department to pay for their equipment. Turnout gear costs about $2000+ per person and for safety has to be fitted to them. Using leftover improperly fitted gear is unsafe 4th You have to keep training them. The items listed above are just the start. Medical continuing education is a constant to maintain a state EMS license and keeping training up for all the other duties they have to do. By the way this is a common activity for full time firefighters during the day when people think they are just sitting around in the big chairs watching TV. 5th They have to get to the station in a safe and timely manner when there is a call. Since they are off leading a normal life when the call comes in they have to stop what they are doing and get to the station. In a city the size of Ann Arbor that is not a easy task. That is why the full time guys take the truck with them everywhere. During some calls time is everything. 6th You never know how many you will get them when the call happens. On call firefighters do it as a 2nd job. There primary job may be out of the city or their boss may not be willing to let them leave. Plus they have lives of their own. Some of them are always out of town or in a store where there pager wont pick up a call. Ask some of the local volunteer departments what percentage of guys they have available during hunting season, MIS race weekends, football weekends, popular vacation times, and holidays. If you think the department get to dictate there availability to them think again. And finally you have to keep a hold of them. Ask any volunteer department chief how much work that is. There is a huge ongoing time investment to be a volunteer firefighter. It is not a typical part time job. Its a lifestyle commitment for the volunteer and there family. Most people are not up for that or can maintain it. Turnover can be very high. Full time department, volunteer department, or combination department each has its costs and tradeoffs. It all just depends on what you are willing to spend
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 9:28 p.m.
What a joke!!! Didn't the PD just eliminate double the positions proposed by council. Now they are expected to cut more... If you look at the national standard for Officers per capita we are below federal guide lines. Last I checked we have the same number of Officers on the the street as the city did in the 1960's... Yea it seems as though Fraser really wants the citizens of Ann Arbor to feel the pain so that they will vote for an income tax. Although I am for the tax to begin with, this strategy by the city does not sit well with the citizens the government serves. We need to really think about who we are voting into office and remember how the cities budget is mishandled year after year. Oh and by the way don't think the criminals next door aren't looking at the headlines....
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 9:15 p.m.
Former Council Member Lowenstein, Yes, all the departments belong to the Mutual Aid Association. However, not all departments have an "Automatic" response. Usually, when a department gets to a serious incident that is beyond their resources to control, they request help. Now, between Ypsi City and Ann Arbor, they have an agreement that Ann Arbor will respond prior to Ypsi getting there to assess the incident. This was not the intention of Mutual Aid agreements. By the way, do you know what Ann Arbor sends to Ypsi and what Ypsi sends to Ann Arbor? Does Ypsi respond to all of Ann Arbor's areas? Does Ann Arbor respond to all of Ypsi? How many personnel does Ann Arbor send and how many does Ypsi send back? How many will Ann Arbor send after the layoffs and how many will Ypsi send if they lay off? Since you are no longer on Council, I assume you do not know.
Ryan J. Stanton
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 9:08 p.m.
@a2grateful You can force a paragraph break without having to use periods by hitting enter/return twice between paragraphs.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:58 p.m.
Amended statement: The City of Ann Arbor owns more land in the City than U of M.. On this land:. The City of Ann Arbor provides less than 1,000 jobs.. U of M provides about 32,000 jobs.. Which entity is an economic engine?. Which entity has taken most land from the tax base, blocking private development in and out of the City?. Which entity appears to have land acquisition as their largest priority?. Which entity is cutting core services and employees to maintain their land base?. Who really thinks that U of M is the biggest problem in this scenario?
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:47 p.m.
Baker, you really want a reserve officer out on the streets carrying a gun, with only several hours of training. They have no police powers unless they are paired with a sworn officer. It would be a huge liability to the city having reserve officers. Sure its cheap, but a multi million doallar lawsuit against the city when a reserve officer messes up won't be.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 7:34 p.m.
Always been in favor of income tax. I'm still a little confused as to why the local business owners are so opposed?
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 7:20 p.m.
I was not suggesting totally replacing the current police and firefighter with a completely volunteer or reserve system. I was thinking it would be a way to boost their numbers. For example reserve officers could help with large events like fairs and football games or even just help run the police office to free up more cops for the streets. Reserve officers are often paired with a full time cop so no officer has to patrol at alone. I would think 14 volunteer firefighters would be better than 14 empty spots in the department. It seems to work well for many other local cities even ones the size of Ann Arbor. So why not investigate it? If it is cost effective why not let the citizens of Ann Arbor help their city!
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 6:58 p.m.
The City of Ann Arbor owns more land than U of M.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 6:58 p.m.
Stop blaming the UofM. The U has its own police which puts more officers on the road. A2 get $ from the state for AAFD runs to UM. UM pays for water, did buy a fire truck some time back, paved some roads, collects its own garbage and has made A2 what it is. The U helps fund AATA, its staff and students frequent A2 businesses, raising revenue from sales tax, supports the Art Fairs and Summer Festival. The UM property makes the city smaller and thus should me more manageable. The problem is too much spending on non essential services. Million dollar water structure, homeless shelter, multiple low income housing units, $2-3 million on the old YMCA building, putting the residents in motels. A2 puts incredible pressur on developers. Costly benefits for employees. Bad decision after bad decision by the city. The UM should not be target to fix problems the city created itself. I am no fan of the UM, its run poorly in many regards, much worse than 10-20 yrs ago, but helps more than it hurts the city.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 6:36 p.m.
If you are worried about your response times now, a volunteer department is not the way to go. Besides, Ann Arbor Firefighters do much more than fight more than fires, they are highly-trained first responders. You can't have volunteer firefighters going to every medical call. UM should chip in something, they own a ton of real estate which AAFD serves.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 6:34 p.m.
a2citizen: I believe by law any city income tax must be 1% residents and 0.5% non-residents. There is no way a resident will dodge the income tax unless your income falls below a certain level set by the city as part of the income tax process (a way to exempt low income residents). On the positive side, once the income tax takes effect, the city would have to eliminate their share of the property tax. While you would still pay schools, county, WWC, etc... millages, there would be some property tax relief.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 6:15 p.m.
There are some very good ideas here. I like the idea of opening up volunteer firefighting spots. I was a volunteer firefighter for a previous city and have wondered why A2 doesn't have this. I also like the idea of a city income tax, but NOT for city residents. I own a home here and pay a lot of taxes, more so than any other city I've lived in. Yes, there are more services here, and I enjoy some of them, but I also work in Ann Arbor and another tax would hurt me financially. I do worry a bit about cutting police and fire, but would need to look at the entire budget to understand their decisions.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 6:06 p.m.
Well People. Sure hope you do not need the police or fire departments. The city should be very proud.WAY TO GO MR MAYOR.KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 5:58 p.m.
Actually, what if we contracted 100% of City services to U of M?. We would likely get far better service for the same, or less, cost.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 5:12 p.m.
I know local business owners are anti-income tax. But with the U owning so much non-taxable property, a slight income tax (1% for residents,.5% for non-residents) combined with a reduction in property tax seems reasonable. Of course, income tax adds a fairly substantial administrative burden.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 5:05 p.m.
Has the city consider starting volunteer or reserve police and firefighter programs? Several near by my cities and townships do this. I would think this could save money, keep us safer and get more citizens involved in there community.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 4:59 p.m.
Wow! U of M bought a fire truck! Since we won't have any fire fighters to man this truck, lets put it next to the big water fountain at City Hall for decoration. That way our City leaders can see them both everyday and maybe realize what they have done to this City.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 4:52 p.m.
The art fund was broken down at the council meeting on Monday night. Not a penny of it was from the general fund so it can't be spent on the AAFD or PD. My point is why are we worrying about funding arts when basic services are being cut. Obviously they cut the art budget to help fill the budget gap. Well get rid of it and when times get better save the money for future hard time instead of feel good projects. There is a lot of public art on the UM campus why are we worrying about have bike racks that say art.
Ryan J. Stanton
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 4:36 p.m.
@DwightSchrute One of the arguments being made by supporters of an income tax is that, though U-M doesn't pay taxes, it has 38,000 employees - the majority of whom commute to Ann Arbor - who would be subject to an income tax.
Ryan J. Stanton
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 4:33 p.m.
I just received a copy of one of the layoff notices sent out yesterday and today. It says the city will pay out any vacation or compensatory time firefighters have accrued and banked in their final pay. They are being advised to apply for state unemployment benefits as soon as possible through the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth. Firefighters' benefits will end their last day of employment. Also, firefighters will retain rights to their pension contributions. In case anyone was wondering, Fraser misspoke in a previous article when he said the city was required to give firefighters 30 days notice. In fact, only two weeks notice was required and the city is giving firefighters more than three weeks notice now.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 4:13 p.m.
Great idea Marvin, but I would suggest giving a break to students from Michigan attending the university, or an opportunity to recoup some of it at tax time. A city income tax will benefit the Townships immensely, go ahead and do that.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 4:11 p.m.
All the area fire departments are part of a mutual aid agreement, so their fire departments help out in Ann Arbor when necessary, too.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 4:02 p.m.
The City of Ann Arbor should tax UM Students 1% of their tuition. 1% too much? OK, 1/2%. UM won't like it but we may see that they may suddenly warm up to the idea of a yearly contribution to the City.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 3:57 p.m.
Could someone do a comparison between U-M and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Ann Arbor's college town 'twin city'? I believe that U-W does pay taxes to the city which makes Madison much more affordable than Ann Arbor, a comparable city.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 3:54 p.m.
Interesting how AAFD loses personnel, but goes Automatic Mutual Aid to Ypsi City, taking a truck from Ann Arbor, across Pittsfield Township, Ypsi Township to arrive at a fire at least 6 miles away. Doesn't seem like the best use of Ann Arbor tax dollars, but a great deal for Ypsi. Especially in light of the fact that Ypsi is considering laying off 6 Firefighters this summer. Thanks AA for subsidizing our services, we appreciate it.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 3:43 p.m.
The art fund was broken down at the council meeting on Monday night. Not a penny of it was from the general fund so it can't be spent on the AAFD or PD. And before someone says it: The council can't break into the restricted funds. Almost all of the money comes from dedicated millages (art in the park!) or fees for things like sewers. The council can't change state law or the decisions of the voters. All the cities in Michigan are cutting back. Fire and police personnel are being laid off across the state. Ann Arbor is probably doing better than most in that they have not had to do this to any great extent until now.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 3:26 p.m.
What is the world is going on? Nobody mentions that a City Tax would be the best? I bet that all you out there mentioning the Headlee thing are not even residents. For crying out loud : a city tax would relieve the city dwellers of a large tax burden, would make housing more affordable in AA, and all those thousands of commuters to Ann Arbor, using the streets and parks for which we the residents pay, would contribute a little as well. Wake up people, read the fine print.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 3:15 p.m.
everydayguy is right. Would it hurt to ask UM to make a yearly donation to city coffers? Does UM currently pay anything?
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 2:55 p.m.
@VivienneArmentrout...what is a budget retreat?
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 2:51 p.m.
I'm pleased to hear Michigan bought a fire truck, too bad if there isn't anyone to man it.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 2:46 p.m.
The question of UM contributions to firefighting costs in the city came up at the budget retreat. Yes, they have been asked and have cordially declined. They did buy a fire truck a while back, though.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 2:39 p.m.
everydayguy is right. Would it hurt to ask UM to make a yearly donation to city coffers? Does UM currently pay anything?
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 2:24 p.m.
So here's my question: How much is U-M contributing to help with this public safety nightmare? U-M certainly consumes a large chunk of the city's public safety services (Fire moreso than Police, as they have DPS/UMPD), but to discuss the University's nontaxable status here would be to beat a dead horse. But seriously-- just listen to AAFD radio traffic to see how often they make runs to U-M property. My concern is that U-M owns a TON of property throughout the city of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor Township, Pittsfield Township, Scio Township, and so on. They also consume Public Safety Services in these municipalities. Since it's clear that U-M has a significant amount of money in the bank (go walk through some of their new and renovated buildings), can they not contribute some to help save at least SOME of the firefighters upon whom they depend for fire and first-response EMS services? It only makes sense. I'm not implying U-M is leeching, but some response here (short of starting their own fire department) might be appropriate. *If you have a VHF scanner and really do want to listen to fire dispatch to see what I mean, use these frequencies: Ann Arbor City Fire Dispatch: 154.175 MHz Washtenaw County Central Fire Dispatch (Ann Arbor Township, Scio Township, several others): 154.250 MHz Pittsfield Township Fire Dispatch: 154.415 MHz
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 2:24 p.m.
Where might one find the information on other department cuts pertaining to staffing and wages?
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 2:20 p.m.
Will it be a heated water fountain? For that much money it better be
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 2:17 p.m.
Why not cut the other 1/2% of the arts program before cutting safety services or raising taxes!
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 2:16 p.m.
I have yet to see any mention of cuts to the public services that we taxpayers fund on an ongoing basis. What is the current ratio of funding for housing programs, homeless, etc? Donations to organizations that also fund these programs such as United Way, Salvation Army, etc have probably gone down due to the poor economy. Are our tax dollars being used wisely and for what? Are A2 taxpayers bearing a greater burden? Tough questions for bleeding heart city council.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 1:47 p.m.
Hey folks: How does the idea of a $1,000,000 dollar water fountain sound on this 20-degree December day?
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 1:47 p.m.
After every penny has been squeezed out of the City budget and whatever concessions have been made by non-union and union employees, it would be reasonable to look at a Headlee over-ride. We are in this together and everyone, including the taxpayers, needs to contribute to the solution. With property values falling, many have seen their tax bills decrease. For those whose taxes have not decreased (I am in that group), we already are paying a lot less than many residents who arrived later, thanks to the Headlee statute. An incremental increase in the millage does not seem like that great a sacrifice to save some of the City's basic services.
Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 1:40 p.m.
So we lose 14 firefighters but gain a multitude of expensive, yet ugly signs!