how will the ypsilanti income tax not passing effect police, fire and ems service?

I posted a few notes from Washtenaw County Commissioner Conan Smith on the pro side of the Ypsilanti City Income Tax debate last week, and now I’d like to post a letter from the other side. This one comes from former mayoral candidate Steve Pierce. It’s a response to the City’s claim that, if the tax does not pass, we will have to let firefighters go.

I am just reporting things as I see them. Don’t take my word, check the facts and then draw your own conclusions.

Case in point. What has the supporters of higher income taxes been telling us. Vote yes or the City will cut 3 firefighters.

So lets talk fire for a moment. To have a full complement and provide all those cool services like EMS and aggressive attack fire fighting that got us our low ISO rating, the city says we need 23 firefighters including the chief and fire marshal.

The YES folks are saying they plan to cut 3 firefighters and reduce head count to 20 if the Income Tax does not pass

I think everyone would agree, right now with no cuts, we have a pretty good fire department. I would argue we have one of the best in the state.

How many firefighters do you suppose we have right now. Not 23. Not 22.

Would you believe 20. Yep you guessed it, the city has already eliminated three positions.

Moreover, two of our firefighters are on long term disability for injuries so we only have 17 firefighters working plus the chief. And one of the 17 firefighters is scheduled to leave before the end of the year. So by the end of the year, the department will be down 19 total firefighters. With two out on injury, we are down to 16 which is more than twice the number the YES folks say they will cut to if no City Income Tax.

Folks we are already at the level the YES folks keep saying is bad news if they cut three (3) firefighters. Yet EMS calls are still be answered, Fires are being fought, and heart attack victims are being saved. I don’t thing the opposition has told anyone about this. They don’t want you to know that they have already made the cuts to fire before the election has even occurred.

Now you asked a very fair question when you asked “Do you really think they would put our citizens in physical jeopardy just to make a political point?”

I hope not, I really do. But here is my concern. Having just 17 fire fighters to cover 3 24 hour shifts is causing a lot of overtime. That means you have tired firefighters which means that you are increasing the chance that a firefighter is going to get hurt on the job. Remember these men and women work 24 hour shifts. So when they pull over time they end up working a 48 hour shift.

It isn’t like being a factory rat and working 2 extra hours each day and 6 hours on Saturday. These are tough shifts and it means more time away from family and reduces your recovery time from one of the most stressful jobs in the world.

Now step back for a moment. This past summer we had a real chance at meaningful regional cooperation between the City and the Township with the joint response agreement. This plan would mean that Ypsi City and Township departments would simultaneously respond to any fire call inside the city or township. That means a quicker response to major fires, it means more firefighters on the scene which means it is safer when they enter a burning building. Great concept, little to no additional cost and substantially improve response time and save lives both firefighters and citizens.

Then remember we had not one but two fire fighters killed while off duty in the last year. The last member killed was in the plane crash while on a life flight to procure an organ for a patient at U-M hospital. Besides being a firefighter, Rick LaPensee was a flight nurse for U-M organ procurement program. He along with the rest of the crew were killed in the plane crash this past summer.

You know what the city did. They didn’t fill his position telling the firefighters they would wait until after the City Income Tax to see what they would do.

Well that is putting the rest of the staff at risk because they are working extra overtime to cover the shifts and they are working more tired because of these extra shifts.

Worse, the township is skeptical that the City was using the joint response to cover up for man shortages inside the city. When the Township learned that LaPensee’s position was not to be filled, the township backed out of the agreement. They are willing to proceed with the agreement but only if the City gets up to full staffing. But the City says they won’t do that.

So this sunk the first real chance we had at regionalization and trust building with township officials, one of the critical points in the blue ribbon report was to build trust, and this decision to not hire firefighters is putting the lives of our firefighters at serious risk.

So is this cynical. I don’t know, you need to decide. But what it does prove. That we won’t ever succeed at regionalization if we can’t even meet our partners half way and you can judge for yourself the effect of a 3 person cut on our fire staff. We are down 4 right now and down 5 by the end of the year. The City is currently operating 5 firefighters short tonight as we speak.

Should those cuts have ever happened. I say no. Should LaPensee’s spot been filled, absolutely. They had the budget last year and this year to hire new firefighters but choose not too.

And don’t buy into this argument that they don’t want to turn around and layoff a new hire if the City Income Tax doesn’t pass.

They just hired a new assistant city manager that makes over $70,000 a year and she is cut in year two or three of their plan. They also recently hired at least three new people in the clerks office in the last year, two new planners, new DDA director, and new hires all over city hall. Most if not all of those recent hires are cut in the the current Solvency Plan from the City manager by year three.

But they won’t hire a new firefighter to replace a guy killed in a plane accident. We didn’t need to hire new City clerk folks. We could have used that money for a part time clerk and contracted with the County to run elections. But the City manager with the blessing of City Council hired a new City clerk and new support staff and choose not to hire one much less three new firefighters.

So you need to decide for yourself, do you want to have planners and election clerks or firefighters. Me, if I have to make a choice, I want my firefighters first, I want them safe, and I want the department staffed so they are not at any unnecessary risk because someone is trying to prove a point about how bad it will be with 3 firefighters cut.

If we’re lucky, the firefighter who commented earlier this evening on another tax-related thread will come back and help us sort all of this out. I know a lot of people are basing their decision on the impact a No vote will have on fire, police and EMS service, so i’s absolutely critical that we have good information in this area. Hopefully the pro-tax side will also respond.

update: Mayor Schreiber left the following response in the comments section.

According to the city manager and the fire chief:

* The fire department has 23 positions including the fire chief and the fire marshall

* Two positions are open due to the retirement of Chief Roberts and the tragic death of firefighter Rick Lapensee

* One firefighter is on medical leave

According to the city manager’s solvency plan, emergency medical service (EMS) would be eliminated in fiscal year-end 2009 with the elimination of three full-time firefighter positions. With twenty or fewer full-time firefighters, the fire department can’t reliably sustain both EMS and first response firefighting. On a temporary basis, these services can be maintained without compromising the abilities of our firefighters. The decision to fill two vacant full-time fire department positions will be made after November 6. The positions will be filled if the funding is available.

The assistant city manager is also the human resources director, the (ongoing) union contract negotiator, and the recreation coordinator. This position is vital to keep the city responsive the needs of the community.

The county charges for election and clerk services. City residents are getting the best deal with a dedicated city clerk who can respond to walk-in requests and run fair elections. Even if Washtenaw County agreed to provide clerk services for the city, they would charge the full-time employee rate, with no cost savings.

Other positions that were filled provide the services that residents expect. Cutting those positions amounts to implementing the city manager’s proposed solvency plan, with the resulting loss of city services.

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77 Comments

  1. Posted October 31, 2007 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    THe Handwriting is on the wall ..less income to businesses, less to the state … It only makes sense to regionalize services, and more.
    Sure the lack of overlap might cause by attrition and other means, a reduced labor force, and if eliminating these city, township, county lines and divisions gives us one fire hall, school etc, in a small area instead one each for each municipality and district …then savings could abound.
    Per capita services , instead of per governing body, municipality, fifedom etc …this might cause some problems but eliminate others in the long run …more people , bigger better buying power for benefits, gasoline, concrete, ..etc etc . No more jurisdictional squabbling…Instead of two crews of 2 at the city and 3 at the township on a task , maybe it could be just condensed into 4 crews of 2 for the entire area ……LOwer cost Lower taxes …fewer politicians would be a fantastic next step,

    Or we can keep the status quo and have like my friend at one city said …”they have us all in one building now , combined services . It stinks! ” , he says. ” Before long they’ll have us tree trimmers cutting grass…”
    I think grass cutting would be better than a lay off , was my remark …he looked at me like that was absurd !

  2. Publius
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Please think twice before giving these people more of your money.

  3. Union Household
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Its sad that the city has enlisted our highly respected fire chief to help sell their “worst case scenario” fear agenda. Surely he must know that the people will not tolerate any more cuts to the department. Armed with the knowledge in Mr. Pierces report, they may insist that the council get off their collective derierres and hire replacements. Of course, ‘The People’ can insist all they want, but it will take a regime change to get change from the four deceptors who are running this runaway train in reverse.

    John Delcamp

  4. Paul Schreiber
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    According to the city manager and the fire chief:

    * The fire department has 23 positions including the fire chief and the fire marshall

    * Two positions are open due to the retirement of Chief Roberts and the tragic death of firefighter Rick Lapensee

    * One firefighter is on medical leave

    According to the city manager’s solvency plan, emergency medical service (EMS) would be eliminated in fiscal year-end 2009 with the elimination of three full-time firefighter positions. With twenty or fewer full-time firefighters, the fire department can’t reliably sustain both EMS and first response firefighting. On a temporary basis, these services can be maintained without compromising the abilities of our firefighters. The decision to fill two vacant full-time fire department positions will be made after November 6. The positions will be filled if the funding is available.

    The assistant city manager is also the human resources director, the (ongoing) union contract negotiator, and the recreation coordinator. This position is vital to keep the city responsive the needs of the community.

    The county charges for election and clerk services. City residents are getting the best deal with a dedicated city clerk who can respond to walk-in requests and run fair elections. Even if Washtenaw County agreed to provide clerk services for the city, they would charge the full-time employee rate, with no cost savings.

    Other positions that were filled provide the services that residents expect. Cutting those positions amounts to implementing the city manager’s proposed solvency plan, with the resulting loss of city services.

    Paul Schreiber

  5. Poe
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    No one is taking into account that there will be more fires if the tax does not go through. I read on a local news site that if the tax failed to pass the city would not only begin laying off firemen but they would start hiring arsonists. You don’t have to be a Fire Chief to know that would put a further strain on already limited resources.

    http://ypsinews.com/index.php/political-cartoon-october-6-2007/

  6. Posted October 31, 2007 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Hey Poe, you are right, I hadn’t thought about that. And then, if it couldn’t get bad enough, to have to worry about losing Elvis as well to of all places, Ann Arbor! Now that would be a darn shame if something like that happened.

    But you know, this is a hard luck sort of town. Why heck, there was even a story about how there was oil found at Water Street, can you imagine such a story. I am shocked, I tell you shocked, the things that happen in Ypsilanti.

    http://ypsinews.com/index.php/oil-discovered-at-water-street-update1/

    Even after such a good news story, that rascally vocal minority bunch was still complaining about Water Street and City Hall. It never seems to end.

    Oh well, remember to vote on Nov 6th.

    Cheers!!

    – Steve

  7. rodneyn
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    The Honorable Paul Schreiber, Mayor: “City residents are getting the best deal with a dedicated city clerk who can respond to walk-in requests and run fair elections. Even if Washtenaw County agreed to provide clerk services for the city, they would charge the full-time employee rate, with no cost savings. Other positions that were filled provide the services that residents expect.”

    Mr. Mayor,

    There are many ways to provide city services, especially clerk/election, planning, and human resources. Full City Hall employment is one, but such services can be privatized, operated jointly with other municipalities, or contracted out to the county or other entities. It must be great to be so sure the way you’ve described is best. I don’t recall ever being asked what services I expect (or even use) from the City.

    It must also be great to be so knowledgeable about costs to be able to declare without question that contracting out or privatizing certain city services offers no cost savings over full employment at City Hall. I don’t recall seeing that study, or receiving the request for proposals for city planning work.

    Perhaps I should file a FOIA request for that data? I suspect that if I did the City Attorney’s office would report back that it doesn’t exist.

  8. visitor
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    About whats been written about Mutual Aid by the Ypsilanti Twp. firefighter. The City Council isn’t discussing cutting firefighters if the tax doesn’t pass b/c it thinks it can rely on Mutual Aid Pacts. The Fire Chief has said in public forums that those layoffs would really hurt the quality of the department and that they can’t rely on the townships to come to the rescue. It is actually the anti-tax side that brought up the mutual aid pacts as a way to justify cutting staff at the fire department to make the tax seem not as necessary.

    The reality is that the staff of the police has been cut by 12%, administration has been cut by 31%, and fire has been cut by 4% since 2001. The core services are going to have to be cut in order to balance the budget if the tax doesn’t pass.

    I would like to hear what the twp. fireman has to say about appropriate staffing levels in general, consolidation efforts in the region, and ISO ratings in the city if the tax fails and cuts are made. His comments about those issues should be taken into consideration. However thats where his expertise on this issue stops. I don’t give much consideration to any comments made about the order of the potential layoffs of city employees if the income tax doesn’t pass. Firefighters saying firefighters shouldn’t get layed off does not do us any good here and ignores the larger issue.

    Ypsilanti’s in a financial crisis and the only was to keep these cuts from happening and keep the quality of life in the city at an exceptable level is to pass the income tax.

  9. visitor
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Rodney
    The reason why governments need to see FOIA requests FOIA because its proper procedure. The law says that the government unit can charge the requester for the FOIA. In order for that information to be discovered an employee needs to 1)stop working on government business 2)spend X amount of days or weeks researching and compiling information for the request. Lets not assume that City Hall has all this information in a nice little package with “to:steve” on it. If ypsilantisfuture recieved information from a FOIA they filed free of charge SCIT would be screaming “do you know how MONEY the city spent giving them that information!”
    It takes time and in turn money to create those reports. Theres not magical gnomes who work for free and can have it the information in 1 day. You should be glad the city is charging for that information. Steve should sell one of his Segways to pay for it.

    Privatization is very complex issue and is not an option for the time line the City of Ypsilanti is dealing with. Council should look into to it in the long term. When the real costs of privatization come out then we will have that discussion.

    I know alot of you think Conan Smith or Dr. Ohren are biased. But have you ever stopped to think that maybe just maybe Dr. Ohren’s Phd in Public Administration and 25 years of experience with working with local governments around the state including Ypsilanti makes him and expert on this issue? He didn’t mention privatization because it would not work for Ypsilanti atleast in the next 5 years. Conan said other “solutions” like privatization were just a myth and the only workable solution was the income tax and good financial management.

    If this tax doesn’t pass this time its going to have to put on the ballot again when we all realize that the professionals weren’t just making this stuff up about the tax being the only real solution for Ypsilanti. Unfortunatley in that time essential services will have to be cut to pass a balanced budget.

  10. rodneyn
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Visitor: “He didn’t mention privatization because it would not work for Ypsilanti atleast in the next 5 years. Conan said other “solutions” like privatization were just a myth and the only workable solution was the income tax and good financial management.”

    Visitor, that is simply not true. Saying it doesn’t make it so. Repeating it until you believe it to be gospel still doesn’t make it so. Privatization of or contracting out for certain services like clerk/election, human resources/payroll, and planning are more than workable solutions; they may be the best course to ensure a positive fiscal future for our local government. These changes can be done in a very short time frame if the political will exists to do so.

    Other significant savings in the short term include re-negotiating existing contracts for legal and engineering services or putting those services out for bid. Our city’s legal costs are as much as twice as high as similar small cities in Michigan. Part of the reason for that is the way to cozy set up Mr. Barr has at the moment. Cut Mr. Profit’s $40,000/year gravy train, and with the rest we’re beginning to see daylight.

    Clearing out City Hall staff and lobbyists will be hard for a City Council used to looking exclusively to police and fire for “cuts,” but it is the better solution – if the political will exists to do it.

    Vote “No!” on November 6th.

  11. dirtgrain
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    $40,000/year gravy train?

    Privatization is no magic fix. It doesn’t magically save money–if money is saved, it is at the expense of something, too often quality in my experience. Privatization is often a tool for the corrupt to put our tax money into the pockets of rich people.

  12. mark
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the comment, Mr. Mayor. I’ll add your response to the front page.

  13. Mark H.
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    OK, back to the substance of the Steve Pierce letter that Mark posted to start this tread: Steve says that the city is already below the much feared minimal staffing for the fire dept. And Mayor Schreiber says that the fire dept currently has 23 positions, but he admits that two are open and one person is on medical leave. So we have, by his numbers, an effective force of no more than 20.

    Steve’s numbers and the Mayor’s differ a bit. Maybe they could cite their sources here and link to relevant documents so we could assess their rival claims?

    Just as importantly, though, is the fact that the Mayor is silent on why the tragic death of one fire fighter and the retirement of the former chief have not resulted in hires of actual firefighters. My friend Paul is also silent on the expectation that my friend Steve reports that there will soon be another retirement. Nor does Paul address Steve’s claim that more than one person is on long term medical leave. These silences make it hard to assess what Paul’s reported 23 positions in the fire dept. mean in terms of actual, currently working firefighters. Certainly it’s not 23. Maybe it’s 20. Maybe it’s 17. I’d like to know. Paul does not out right say that Steve’s observations are incorrect, does he?

    I think Paul’s intentions are honorable, but I am tentatively persuaded that the city solvency plan and actual hiring policies are being used to fan the fears of what would happen if the tax is not passed, and that we are already staffing fire below the levels of what the pro tax side says would be done if the tax is voted down.

    Could Paul post a list of actual working firefighters, with numbers instead of names, to show us what the actual fire fighting force is right now? With those on any kind of leave being so identified, and anyone who’s already given official notice of retirement also being noted?

    With such facts before me, and with them in verifiable form, I will be able to assess whether my tentative conclusion that city officials are fanning the fear factor in this regard is correct. While I am sure that my friend Paul is not deliberately in a manipulative way fanning such fears, i do worry that he may have been taken in by others who have been promoting such fears and creating scenarios of supposed inevitability.

  14. egpenet
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    As I posted earlier, building a staff and an “empire” is considered a success in the corporate world and the in the public sector.

    Having a large (modestly large, but growing) city staff in a kudo for the mayor, council and manager. “Hey, look, we’re big time in Ypsilanti. We’re just as good as those guys West of here. Blah, blah, blah.”

    If we could mobilize the community in favor of first time offenders and juvenile justice, we might be able to DOUBLE the spending cuts at Maxey and reduce the future burden on the county jail.

    I liked Steve’s post on city choices about who to hire when we need more fire personnel, when we need a combined fire response set-up with the township … poor choices made by Koryzno AND COUNCIL.

    This is only ONE instance when we see VERY POOR choices made in favor of BEUROCRACY versus citizen priorities.

    Must we list our priorities again and again?

    1 – Fire, fully staffed or combined with the Township into one effective system

    2 – Police, fully staffed (per population) and ready to deal with what we have up our sleeves … or skits along Miles

    3 – Code enforcement … to maintain infrastructure, HDC and safety for our (UGH!) public housing death traps.

    4 – Legal … no quarrels with our city attorney, except that I’d prefer that he more actively counsel/advise or dissuade some of the poor actions made by the city.

    5 – DPW/Infrastructure … keep it all below ground where it’s supposed to be.
    Billy Bohlen is the best.

    6 – HDC is a central character in Ypsilanti’s future and has already streamlined it’s procedures and structure in anticipation of cutbacks. I’m on the HDC and we’re ready to keep the ball rolling with even greater efficiencies and systems to keep Ypsilanti’s historical features and aspirations alive … especially in terms of promoting historic tourism locally.

    7 – Planning/Zoning … we need a crack team of two/three to go “on the road” for Water Street. Get in their cars and don’t come back until it’s sold. Get out of the office. Don’t take meetings. Stay out of Bombadills and get busy. There is NO OTHER ISSUE than selling Water Street. (It ticks me off that Planning gets any credit for selling Ave Maria … the buyer did all the research, legwork and made the fateful investment. Huzzah! He even consulted with the RNA before he talked to the city. So, THAT property is back on the rolls. Yeah!

    8 – The rest can go home … I mean, what else is there that DOES anything but have meetings in the windows of the Smith Furniture building? (Speaking of the Smith Building … I’m of the opinion that THAT dude ought to be whipped for holding up the devlopment of a wonderful piece of property in the city, because he is such a selfish butthead asking, resportedly, in excess of 1.5 million! Get outta here!)

    9 – Oh, and maybe City Hall could be sold and the shreds of the City that I have drawn could be moved to a more modest quarters. We need the space for office rentals, get it back on the rolls, right?

    And I totally lost my mind in my other post somewhere here in Maynardville … because I neglacted to mention OTHER new businesses that have come into the downtown in the last few years … Bowerbird Mongo! Wow! … Fast Ediees moved across the streeeet into nice digs, so The Tap Room/Annex could grow. WOW #2! … And there are dozens of lovely ladies from Somalia, with tans to die for, who do braiding in two different places on Michigan avenue … and there’s USBS … and Glemps … and Heiks …

    Do You get the message that downtown Ypsi has … tax or no tax, really … a story to tell and services to offer. Ooh! Ooh! Biggie’s has moved from Harriet to Washington … killer Catish Sandwiches!
    And I has a conversation witb Mr. Cannon a few weeks ago. He’s so committed to Harriet and the South Side, but I said … come on downtown.

    He is dug into the community. Did you catch his festival? Music, games, loads of fun. He wants to redevlop that entire corner of S. Hamilton and Harriet … and I think he’ll get the job done. I read Chris, his son’s book, and I’ve been in touch with Chris. Hopefully we’ll get him up here during the Thanksgiving/Christmas Holidays.

    Well, those are my priorities for how we spend our $14-$16 million in taxes. Any other comments? Jennifer and the boys/gals have successfully cuits $400+ million. We neeeeeeed to cuts here … but the cuts will have to come from some other area than fire or police. In fact, we need to ADD 1-3 fire fighters. And Matt can use more help.
    (In fact, it would make snese to mee for WCC campus securitu, EMU police and St. Jospeh’s Hospital security to become one service under Matt’s control … reducing basic communication, I.D., procurement, fleet maintenenace, etc. costs under one budget.

    I say this, because it brings me back to my central pioint … each campus or hospital or business with its own security unit faces all of the indivudual administrative costs …blah, blah, blah. But that’s the game! Security is MY bailywick! Those are MY people! I AM GOD! So, we have all these administrative types running around town bragging on the Country Club Golf Course about their own campus/hospital security police … blah, blah, blah. And sure enough … theierr bosses pay them more money … bvecause they have built larger staffs with more responsibilities.

    Somehwere on this blog I talked about the humor of Ford managers getting offices with credenzas, a coffee urn and an intercom to the General Manager! Ha, ha, ha! Same at GM and everywhere else in the world. THAT’S the game. Ypsi City Hall … no diff.

    Anyway … I’ve been rescuing an 1840’s front porch, which I believe was not Victorian fretwork, but a Swiss imitation.
    Been diggin pier holes for the renovation and I’m blitzed.

    Love, ya, Ypsi! G’night.

  15. visitor
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Rodney,
    Is it gospel to say that the sky is blue and the grass is green? I’m just telling you the financial situation of Ypsilanti has been analyzed by professionals. Those professionals have recommended the income tax as the only viable option. If the tax doesn’t pass those professionals have created a plan that reflects the realities Ypsilanti is facing. Core services will have to be cut.
    If you want your car fixed do you take it to a certified mechanic or a hair stylist?
    If you want a financial plan created do you go to a CPA or an automotive engineer? I’m going to side with the financial professionals and be in favor of the income tax.
    Privatization is not a short term option. Its very complexed and is not a quick fix. Theres no guarentee those savings will materialize. All you have provided us with is rhetoric about privatization. I have a feeling thats all you know about the issue. Heres just the basics when we talk about privatizing. Responsiveness to the public is given up when you privatize. DPW doing a bad job? Council can get the City Manager to get the department head to fix the problem (only hypothetical). If the problems grow and grow either the department head will be fired or city manager will get voted out by council.

    You decide to privatize DPW and choose GiveUsYourCash Industries. What happens when their not providing the quality service your PAYING THEM for? Ask them nicely. Yell at them. Take them to court (which costs money) and sue them. Maybe the judge sides with the City maybe not. Maybe to save money you hired some flunkie lawyer w/ no experience who got a degree online. The whole time your paying legal bills your paying for poor service. The city doesn’t have to continue the contract when it expires but will the next company be any better. Is the council qualified to administer contracts? How much would you have to pay someone to come in and do that b/c you saved money on a city manager whos cheap but doesn’t know what their doing?
    THATS JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG. Privatization can be a positive thing but it can also be a disaster. If you are going to privatize you need to analyze your options carefully and weigh the benefits with the costs.

  16. maryd
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    egpenet you are the stuff!

  17. visitor
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Mark H. those comments about the death of the fire fighter are way out of line. Those 2 positions have not been immediatly filled b/c they will be eliminated to legal budget constraints if the tax doesn’t pass. It would be irresponsible to go through the hiring process just to have to lay off the person in 6 months.
    I think you should apologize for using the tragedy to make your point. That needs to end right now. You can refer to the vacant positions without trying to use the tragedy to make a political point.

  18. observer
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    visitor,

    Huh??? Mark H. was not being disrespectful. How did he use the tragedy to make his point? He merely used descriptions of the two persons who once filled those positions.

    Where do you get this stuff?? Please stop it.

  19. egpenet
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Hold on, vistior … that’s poop! And it PROVES many people’s assertions that the adminsitration is blatantly scavanging the residents.

    While your city buddies, we know who you are, hired almost a doxZen new employees, you meran they DELIBERATELY held off replacing a deceased hero and two other neceessary replacements … to spite us … IN CASEXwe VOTE NO!!?? You must be drinking our of the Saline River, baby boy, because “them are fighting words.” If you are telling the truth, you are giving the citizens and SCIT a wonderful casee for premeditated vengence and voter manipulation. You have said, perhaps, too
    much, at this point. You may now want to back off a bit … meditate on your statement … and gird your loin(s), (my assumption).

    What you say proves Steve Piercee’s allegations that the city has DELIBERATELY NOT replaces firefighters lost in the line opf duty or to disability in order to PUNISH US … while at the same time the city HAS HIRED bureaucrats to bulk up the staff (for what? … an NFL playoff? March Madness?)

    Let’s step back …

    Why don’t the citizens say … OK … tghe city administration and council need dancing lessons …

    (There was a time in my career in film that I has to teach people how to walk.)

    Dance is a good way to get the brain and the body to move in synchronous fashion. So, everyone in city hall or on council gets one hour with the folks at the Queens Bed & Breakfast for dance lessons. Let’s get the brains and bodies connected here.

    I’m at a loss to suggest what else it might take to get this town’s adminstrative head out of its collective butt and into a creative mode. It’s all me, my administration, my program, my idea, my committee (that is a slap at 20/20), wake up people … Ypsilanti is going on all around you, without you, ignoring your silly foibles, pissed at your tax proposals, may or may not vote for them, and will continue to be a great place to be, grow up, learn, live, love and be happy for generations.

    Why the hell do you INSIST on making it so unpleasant for us to BE … get along … and be who we wanna be?

    Get outta our way, please … G’night.

  20. Mark H.
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Hey Visitor,
    I had no intention to exploit Mr LaPensee’s death in any way shape or form. I don’t think I did exploit it; I also mentioned the retirement of the former chief. I mentioned them because the Mayor and Steve had mentioned them, and these two fire positions are still vacant. (If anyone who knew Mr LaPensee took offense, I sincerely apologize. And I’m sure Paul & Steve also meant nothing expliotative in mentioning this tragic loss. I honor this valiant citizen for his devotion to the public good, and like countless people, I mourned his death last summer).

    But I do believe that vacant fire fighter positions should be filled. And there is no inevitablity whatsoever that, if this tax is voted down, that the city has to eliminate firefighter jobs, as opposed to, say, the city’s contract with a Lansing lobbyist. You, Visitor, are on shaky ground in saying that these specific cuts to the fire dept. are inevitable if the tax is voted down. Don’t mistake the solvency plan of one city manager for what is unavoidable. Council will, at that point, be facing serious choices as it’s not had to for ages.

    And I bet there are some qualified people who’d take the fire fighter job even if there was a chance of a lay off in six months. While to me it is irresponsible not to replace these two fire fighters in a timely way, Visitor seems to think it’s OK for city leaders to leave them vacant for an indefinite period, even when the current budget has money for those positiions.

    I thought fire protection and emergency services were key priorities for the pro tax side, but Visitor is arguing that providing full fire staffing now would be “irresponsible.” I respectfully disagree.

  21. Paul Schreiber
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Mark H.

    I spoke with Fire Chief Jon Ichesco this morning. He picks up paychecks for 21 fire department personnel every two weeks.

    Paul Schreiber

  22. Mark H.
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Paul,

    Thanks for the post. How many of these 21 people are actual working fire fighters now (excluding those on any kind of leave medical or otherwise?) Are any of these 21 fire “personnel” non fire fighters (say, clericals)? I ask because the issue at hand is about actual fire fighters “on the job” currently, and because “personnel” may include non fire fighters who work for the fire dept.

    So if the 21 figure you cite was broken down, we could see what the actual fire fighter staff is at present. The 21 seems to count at least one person on medical leave, maybe two. Any clarification would be much appreciated.

    Thanks again!

  23. Paul Schreiber
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Mark H.

    Fire Chief Jon Ichesco told me this morning that of the 21 fire department personnel, only the fire chief position is not a firefighting position. The fire marshall is also not a firefighting position, but it is vacant. One firefighter is on medical leave, so 19 firefighters are currently available.

    Paul Schreiber

  24. brian r
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    In FY 2006-07, there were 23 FTE firefighting employees. 1 Chief, 1 Marshal, 3 Captains, 3 Lieutenants, and 15 firefighters.

    In FY 2007-08, there are 25 FTE firefighting employees. In addition to the 23 positions listed above, two dispatchers were moved from the police department’s budget into the fire department’s budget.

    That’s on pages 22 and 23 of my copy of the budget.

    I don’t know if those 2 dispatcher positions in the YFD are filled or not. We have funding for 4 total dispatchers (2YFD / 2YPD), but I believe only two of those are filled. I’m told dispatching is high stress with a lot of turnover. Police officers are often forced into dispatching duty instead of being on road patrol.

    Jon Ichesco replaced Jim Roberts in March. At that time the Fire Marshal position was vacated.

    Mr. LaPensee died in June.

    In July, YFD captain Bill Wagner was named the Chief of Northfield Township’s fire department. He’s eligible to retire from the Ypsilanti department in March of 2008.

  25. rodneyn
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    egpenet “It’s all me, my administration, my program, my idea, my committee (that is a slap at 20/20), wake up people … Ypsilanti is going on all around you, without you, ignoring your silly foibles, pissed at your tax proposals, may or may not vote for them, and will continue to be a great place to be, grow up, learn, live, love and be happy for generations.”

    Hear, hear! Well said! That is the core difference between the pro-tax and SCIT messages. The pro-tax crowd clings to the mistaken belief that the City Hall is the center of life in Ypsilanti. It is not. What makes this town such a great place to work, visit, and play is the multitude of individual investments and business decisions that together create a unique and attractive place. City Hall has only a marginal role in that, and its role is mostly to get out of the way by modernizing its regulations and approval processes (of which only surface changes have been made).

    What makes our neighborhoods attractive? It is the individual decisions of homeowners to paint, patch, spruce up, and beautify. It is the individual choices of residents to turn their porch lights on at night, to be more aware of what is going on, and to watch out for their neighbors. Here again, City Hall’s role in this is marginal:

    COPAC and the growth and strengthening of neighborhood associations is an example of how the City SHOULD be acting. The police department and other city leaders created the conditions for improved resident-police communication through COPAC, and then got out of the way. For example, I’m certain that the rise in strength and coherence of message by the Midtown Neighborhood Association was a complete and fairly unpleasant surprise to our former Mayor. However, the results of that for Midtown and surrounding neighborhoods has been quite positive.

    When city leaders remember that they are in office as public servants, with a stewardship and a support role to serve the people of Ypsilanti and the ability of citizens to make these individual choices, great things happen. When city leaders believe that only they are knowledgeable enough, smart enough, and gifted enough to make these choices, Water Street happens instead.

    Send a message to City Hall to remind our elected and appointed officials that they are there to serve the people of Ypsilanti, not for the people to serve them (with more and more and more tax dollars)! Vote “No!” on November 6th to stop the city income tax.

  26. visitor
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Mark H. thank you for clearing that up and clearifying your statement.

    I’m glad to see where discussing this in detail. So YFD has 19 active fire fighters, 1 on medical leave, and the chief and marshall who are cooridinating those fire fighters activities and keeping the department running. One vacancy is because of death. Thats 23 personel at the END of FYE 2008 which is what the city has said all along. In FYE 2009 the solvency plan says that three fire fighting positions would have to be eliminated as part of the overall effort to balance the budget. So that means YFD personel will be reduced down to 20 positions. You can’t cut the fire chief or marshall obviously so those cuts will be firefighters. The one position will not be filled and two fire fighters will unfortunately be layed off because of budget constraints.

    This further demonstrates the effort that has been made to be transparent. So why was this so overblown by Steve?
    In know way has this discussion disproved the need for the for the income tax. By the way when are we going to hear the responses to the YPSIVOTES questions?

  27. Posted November 1, 2007 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Looks like Brian has posted some of his answers over at East Cross Street.

    But beware: he uses things like facts, math and attention to detail to make his case.

  28. Steph's Dad
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Trusty,

    Are you implying that Steve wasn’t using facts when he made the case here earlier?

  29. KT
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    The math is hurting my head. I hate word problems. Can someone – preferably someone objective – please explain this to me? I’ve run through everything a few times now and I think visitor is right when he says:

    YFD has 19 active fire fighters, 1 on medical leave, and the chief and marshall who are cooridinating those fire fighters activities and keeping the department running. One vacancy is because of death. Thats 23 personel at the END of FYE 2008 which is what the city has said all along. In FYE 2009 the solvency plan says that three fire fighting positions would have to be eliminated as part of the overall effort to balance the budget. So that means YFD personel will be reduced down to 20 positions. You can’t cut the fire chief or marshall obviously so those cuts will be firefighters. The one position will not be filled and two fire fighters will unfortunately be layed off because of budget constraints.

  30. Posted November 1, 2007 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    No, sorry, I wasn’t implying that at all. I actually admire the efforts put forth by Steve, Paul and Brian to provide an excellent recitation of facts, which I believe add much to the debate.

    I guess my own twisted and sometimes subversive sense of humor doesn’t consistently translate well into these comments. Mea culpa. What I was implying was “Watch out – some of the opinions expressed here are now being confronted by facts!”

  31. Posted November 1, 2007 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    And KT and Visitor: I think was Steve is suggesting is that the argument that having 20 firefighters is “a disaster” or “dangerous” or “likely to increase insurance rates,” etc. doesn’t appear to hold much water, since right now, that’s the number we have actually delivering services, that’s how many we’ve had for some time, and the powers that be appear perfectly comfortable leaving staffing at that level. In other words, Steve is drawing a distinction between what is on paper and what is the practical reality before us.

  32. Posted November 1, 2007 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    And I’m having trouble typing today. The above comment should have started with:

    “I think WHAT Steve is suggesting . . . “

    Sorry ’bout that.

  33. dirtgrain
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Why don’t we just get rid of the whole fire department? They saved my house from burning down once (breaker box exploded, was arcing and smoldering), but that’s no big deal.

    I’m making an assumption that there has been some kind of determination on what an optimal number of firefighters for our area should be, considering area, population, response times, other similar areas, maybe studies, etc. Who can say that response times aren’t down right now when multiple calls come in? I have no idea, and nobody has shown me any data. What is the optimal number of firefighters for Ypsilanti?

  34. Posted November 1, 2007 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    The City currently has 21 firefighters, not 20 as I wrote earlier. The full staffing level is 23. They are short a fire marshal and a fire fighter.

    I stand corrected. Thank you Mr. Mayor for providing all of us with the correct numbers.

    However, I am correct, that the City is currently operating with a current staffing level that is the same as proposed staffing level in the doom and gloom Solvency proposal from the City. That proposal says the City will cut three firefighters from staff.

    In addition, as of today, two other fire fighters are not working right now. One is on medical leave with no return date. The other is on light duty. Which means he gets paid but can’t go out on fire calls. The light duty fire fighter, is among other things, doing some of the work a fire marshall would do.

    That said, the active fire department staff cover 24 hour shifts and handling EMS calls right now, today, is 18 firefighters. That is one less than what is called out in the Solvency proposal.

    In the solvency proposal the city says they will cut from 21 firefighters to 19 firefighters plus the Chief and eliminate the fire marshal position. Or cut from 21 to 18 fire fighters plus the chief and fire marshal. Either way, our current active fire force is at or below the proposed staffing level of the Doom and Gloom plan.

    Moreover, a fire captain has accepted a job as a chief in another community. That is an active firefighter and that person is expected to leave the City sometime next spring. Even knowing that vacancy is occurring in the spring and already having two other vacancies, the city has not posted for any positions in the fire department.

    You will have to decide for yourself if the quality of life has been hurt by the current cuts and if the city and our elected official’s are putting fire fighters lives as well as the lives of residents at risk by running a very short staffed department and not posting to fill the positions that are now vacant.

    Here is one more thing to consider. This is what Mayor Cheryl Farmer said last year in a speech she gave at an MML conference.

    “Friends and Colleagues in the Michigan Legislature, if the State fails to raise and share sufficient revenues to allow the City of Ypsilanti to replace its worn out ladder truck, and there is a fire on the Eastern Michigan University campus, and that ladder truck fails, and a student dies in the fire because we can’t reach him, then you are as guilty of murder as if you had put a gun to that student’s head.”

    “In the fiscal year 2007-2008, under the City of Ypsilanti’s 3 year solvency plan, we are slated to eliminate ordinance enforcement. Friends and Colleagues, if a renter is electrocuted by faulty wiring because the city was unable to afford the staff to do the periodic inspections now required of every rental property, then you and I will be as responsible for that death as if we had held that renter’s finger in the outlet.”

    Dr. Cheryl Farmer, Mayor of Ypsilanti
    Speech to Michigan Municipal League
    2006 Legislative Conference

    The complete speech used to be up n teh City’s website but it appears they removed the link.

    The City’s Solvency plan is proposing to cut three fire fighters and six police officers. Bill Nickels, Paul Schreiber, John Gawlas, and Brian Filipiak have all said they would vote to cut police and fire if the City Income Tax did not pass.

    So using the Mayors logic, if any City Council member dare votes to cut the fire service and someone dies, is Mayor Farmer saying that City Council member would be guilty of murder?

    Still nothing cheer about in this thread,

    – Steve

  35. dirtgrain
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Rodneyn says, “The pro-tax crowd clings to the mistaken belief that the City Hall is the center of life in Ypsilanti.”

    What the crap? You’re projecting onto some crowd your assumptions.

    A lot of things make this a great town. Garbage pick-up makes this a great town.

    Rodneyn says, “It is the individual choices of residents to turn their porch lights on at night, to be more aware of what is going on, and to watch out for their neighbors. Here again, City Hall’s role in this is marginal:”

    Is this your answer to a reduced police force?

    Rodneyn says, “For example, I’m certain that the rise in strength and coherence of message by the Midtown Neighborhood Association was a complete and fairly unpleasant surprise to our former Mayor. However, the results of that for Midtown and surrounding neighborhoods has been quite positive.”

    Huh?

  36. Posted November 1, 2007 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Dirtgrain,

    According to Fire Chief Ichesco, the number of firefighters back in the late 50’s in the City of Ypsilanti was 23. The current staffing level is supposed to be 23 however, from my above post you can see they are down to 21 if you include the Chief in the head count. Because two of the 20 remaining firefighters are on the “injured reserve” list (football talk not HR talk), the actual number of firefighters that can staff the three shifts with each shift being 24 hours long is 18.

    That means 6 firefighters per shift. They need to have a minimum of 5 on the scene to enter a burning building. If they don’t have 5, OSHA and state regs say they can’t go in and they have to fight the fire from outside shooting water in through doors and windows.

    So if you have two firefighters out on a medical run and there is a fire call, one of them has to clear from the medical call and get to the scene of the fire before they can start an inside attack. That is how it was explained to me, if I have misunderstood something, I am sure someone will jump right in and correct the facts. [grin]

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  37. Posted November 1, 2007 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Rodneyn says, “It is the individual choices of residents to turn their porch lights on at night, to be more aware of what is going on, and to watch out for their neighbors. Here again, City Hall’s role in this is marginal:”

    Dirtgrain then said, “Is this your answer to a reduced police force?”

    Actually this was the recommendation from the police department to deal with some of the on-street crime and property thefts.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  38. vistor
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    The former mayor was complaining about the drastic cuts in state shared revenue. The revenue the state is supposed to give back to the City. That shared revenue from the state goes into the city’s general fund. Funding the fire department is part of what the general fund is for.
    Shes saying that the state legislature who is taking the city’s money to balance the state’s own budget is causing the city to lack the financial resources to maintain the fire depts service level. As a result of the legislature’s actions it could cause the YFD to be less able to respond to emergencies and these types of incidents are more likely.

    Council would be forced to cut 3 positions in the YFD b/c the state is taking the city’s money to balance the state’s own budget. It would not be council’s fault that services are cut b/c the state has drastically reduced revenue sharing. Remember the city can only raise revenue from user fees(that can only cover costs), revenue sharing(thats been drastically cut), and property taxes (Ypsilanti has one of the lowest taxable values and nearly 40% of the property not taxable). Using “this” logic it would be unfortunately necessary for these cuts to be made over the next 3 fiscal years if the tax fails to pass. Its the reality the city faces in these tough economic times. The tax is the only viable option for the short-term to sustain the city’s service levels.

    This thread has not been focused on its original purpose. To discuss what would happen to fire, police, and EMS if the tax doesn’t pass. Instead were all arguing about a difference of one fire fighter whos on sick leave, which fire fighter is getting a new job, and how much FOIA requests should cost completely ignoring whats relevant to the issue.

    Q1: How is the police department going to be effected if the tax fails to pass?
    Q2: How is fire department going to be effected if the tax fails to pass?
    Q3: How is EMS service going to be effected if the tax fails to pass?

  39. visitor
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the information Steve. Thats the kind of things we need to talk about when it comes to what are or are not appropriate service levels.

  40. dirtgrain
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    “In the solvency proposal the city says they will cut from 21 firefighters to 19 firefighters plus the Chief and eliminate the fire marshal position. Or cut from 21 to 18 fire fighters plus the chief and fire marshal. Either way, our current active fire force is at or below the proposed staffing level of the Doom and Gloom plan. . . .

    You will have to decide for yourself if the quality of life has been hurt by the current cuts and if the city and our elected official’s are putting fire fighters lives as well as the lives of residents at risk by running a very short staffed department and not posting to fill the positions that are now vacant.”

    Keep in mind that if they make the cuts, the active force may be even smaller, considering potential medical leaves and light-duty situations that may arise in the future. This is of course a potentiality that all employers are forced to consider when making plans and deciding the best number of employees to hire.

    Some seem to suggest that, hey, our fire department is currently staffed below the proposed cuts if the income-tax proposal falls through, and we’re doing fine. I thought you, Steve, were claiming this in your initial post. On the other hand, you bring up that staffing levels may be dangerously low in our fire department. These are things we cannot know by mere speculation. It would take a study of the fire departments’ effectiveness–or an analysis of similar-sized cities and their staffing levels and effectiveness. How can you make the following claim: “Yet EMS calls are still be answered, Fires are being fought, and heart attack victims are being saved.” Have you made an EMS call, had a house fire and a heart attack and then timed and measured the fire departments’ response and effectiveness? Is this all happening with acceptable response times and safety? Does the current level of staffing in our fire departments endanger our fire fighters when they are in action?

    If our fire departments are indeed operating at unacceptably low staffing levels, then I would like to know why those positions haven’t been filled. Somebody suggested that to hire fire fighters and maybe fire them six months later depending on the income-tax proposal vote outcome would be unfair or something. I don’t see this as a good enough reason. Are there other reasons why the positions haven’t been filled?

  41. dirtgrain
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Rodneyn says, “It is the individual choices of residents to turn their porch lights on at night, to be more aware of what is going on, and to watch out for their neighbors. Here again, City Hall’s role in this is marginal:”

    Dirtgrain then said, “Is this your answer to a reduced police force?”

    Actually this was the recommendation from the police department to deal with some of the on-street crime and property thefts.

    Every police department in the country recommends this, obviously. But I don’t see any police departments claiming this will compensate for cuts in police department staffing. I doubt you have an example of a police department that makes such a claim.

  42. Posted November 1, 2007 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    According to the City, they claim the state cut $900,000 in state shared revenue and then provided $355,000 to the city for EMU fire support. So total funding from the state this year is about $3.45 million that goes into the general fund. That doesn’t include the special grants, road money, and other state monies that come in through the year. So I am not sure a 13 percent cut is drastic considering the State was trying to make up for a $1+ billion shortfall at the state level.

    Given the recent increase in the state income tax of 11.5%, so to use your words, that would be a drastic increase in the state income tax. BTW, the State treasure says the service tax will cost each Michigander about $50 a year in addition to the 11.5% increase in the State Income Tax.

    OK the state cut $450,000, that definitely hurts. But the solution proposed is a City Income Tax which by the City’s estimate will raise $4.1 million dollars annually.

    BTW, starting the fiscal year July 2007, the city was projecting that they had a $600,000 surplus in revenue for the upcoming year. The City immediately spent most of it on special projects and raises rather than using it to fund AATA or bank it for Water Street payments or just hold it just in case it is needed sometime during the year. The city also made no cuts or reductions in staff or services for this fiscal year. In fact they increased spending this year.

    Over the last 5 years, the city has had a some $2 million surplus of revenue over expenses. That was according to their audit reports.

    – Steve

  43. dirtgrain
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    “BTW, starting the fiscal year July 2007, the city was projecting that they had a $600,000 surplus in revenue for the upcoming year. The City immediately spent most of it on special projects and raises rather than using it to fund AATA or bank it for Water Street payments or just hold it just in case it is needed sometime during the year.”

    Steve, how can I find out about this?

  44. Andy
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    re the fire staffing. It might be the case that current staffing levels are sufficient for actually doing the job most of the time, even if that means slowly burning out the staff. But what would also seem to be clear is that the insurance rating is based on currently out of date data, so if these cuts or unfilled positions remain part of the plan and ‘official’ staffing levels drop we are likely to see that hit to our ranking.

    Disagree?

  45. Mark H.
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Trusty, Steve, and Paul for your responses. Seems clear to me that the city is now already below the supposed “can’t go there or else” level of effective staffing in the fire department. Strange choices for a city leadership to make, esp. when that leadership is saying protecting fire is a major goal of the income tax.

    Seems that the real goal of the income tax is to protect the comfortable, established ways of doing things in city hall, and avoiding a confrontation with the need for radically different ways of setting priorities. The city’s fiscal problems are real, but the tax won’t fix them, just delay confronting them. And delay is very expensive.

  46. rodneyn
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    visitor: “Council would be forced to cut 3 positions in the YFD b/c the state is taking the city’s money to balance the state’s own budget. It would not be council’s fault that services are cut b/c the state has drastically reduced revenue sharing.”

    This is the essence of the pro-tax argument. So says our Mayors and their supporters on City Council: ‘The State of Michigan is the cause of our problems now (not us?!!), and there is nothing we can do about it ourselves. However, we know that the state will come around and be our savior by the time this temporary income tax expires.’

    dirtgrain: “Steve, how can I find out about this (surplus in revenue)?”

    Try a FOIA request. You should receive more than one kind of ‘proof’ from the exercise…. Good luck.

  47. Posted November 1, 2007 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Dirtgrain,

    I didn’t say everything was fine. In fact I think operating at the current level in the fire department puts firefighters and residents at grave risk.

    I was simply pointing out that there are some individuals going around door to door telling seniors that if they cut three firefighters, no one will be here to respond if you fall or have a heart attack. But I doubt many knew that the City was already operating at a reduced staffing level and because of that reduced staffing level, the township pulled out of the first meaningful regional program in some 30 years since YCUA and GYRO.

    While operating at that level, there was no reduction in our ISO rating or increases in our insurance rates.

    Yet the city has the budget right now to hire the firefighters. The City also knows they are about to lose a third firefighter to retirement. I have been told it can sometimes take 3 to 6 months to hire a new firefighter. Why hasn’t the city started hiring a firefighter? They said they would wait until after the City Income Tax election. But the city didn’t wait to hire new people in the Clerks office or in other departments at City Hall.

    The supporters of higher income taxes aren’t going around saying if you vote No on the City Income Tax they will eliminate a clerk in the Clerk’s office and fire the Assistant City Manager. Both jobs they filled in the last 6 months. What they are saying is vote no and the City will cut police and fire.

    Remember, the solvency plan is not the Council’s plan, it was one version of a proposal from the City Manager.

    Council never voted on it, it was never presented to the public and the public was never given the opportunity to discuss it or make suggestions because the Council had no intentions on voting for the plan before the election. Apparently, none of them wanted to be on record supporting the doom and gloom solvency plan.

    But they weren’t shy about voting their opinion to tell everyone in the city what a crappy plan the Keep Ypsi Rollin’ proposal was. So the Council will tell you that they think about the KYR plan, but they haven’t bothered saying what they think of the Solvency plan. Mayor Schreiber in an earlier post even said, “According to the city manager’s solvency plan…”

    Notice what he is doing. He isn’t saying my plan. He isn’t saying the City Council’s plan. He is saying it is the City Manager’s plan. But the City Manager is hired and evaluated by the City Council. The manager works at the pleasure of Council. So what is the Council’s plan? Unless I missed one of those 8am, early morning special meetings, I don’t think we have ever heard what is the Council’s plan when it comes to police and fire.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  48. MaryD
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    One thing I have been especially irked by is the City coming through my neighborhood and fining my neighbors. In the 20 years I have lived at my current address, I have never seen such fierce enforcement of silly ordinances. 2 different neighbors set good things out by the curb for others to pick up, for example a working computer monitor and a highchair. Typically another would come a take it for their own use. I see this as a great opportunity for Re-use of useful items. For many years I have observed this practice. Now it seems the city must have too much time on their hands and have fined my good neighbors. Arggg.
    Regarding police and fire response times in the city, it is seconds

  49. Posted November 1, 2007 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    You can FOIA the City for the audits but thankfully the State make them available for free on the Web.

    http://www.michigan.gov/treasury/

    Here is some good advice. You should check the claims about trends in revenue sharing and property tax collections against the audited financial statements? City audits, including the management letters, are on the state website http://www.michigan.gov/treasury click local government services then click local unit audit reports. It brings up a screen to search by year- then click on the county to see a list of all local government audits for gov entities in the county.

    Audits are about disclosure. They are not the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. I always read the management letter and footnotes because if there is something wrong, that’s where it will be disclosed.

    Once thing the former mayor said at the EMU forum and was repeated at teh City held forums was the state had cut revenue sharing 900,000 a year since 2001. That isn’t what teh audit shows. Here is the report from 2006 page 84.

    State
    Fiscal Decrease
    Year Statutory Constitutional Total from 2001
    2001 $2,519,229 1,451,119 $ $3,970,348 $ –
    2002 2,336,695 1,465,900 3,802,595 (167,753)
    2003 2,114,488 1,489,331 3,603,819 (366,529)
    2004 1,772,659 1,466,283 3,238,942 (731,406)
    2005 1,702,362 1,501,276 3,203,638 (766,710)
    2006* 1,640,998 1,526,268 3,167,266 (803,082)
    2007* 1,598,913 1,569,079 3,167,992 (802,356)

    * Amounts represent estimates.

    According the the auditor there haven’t been $900,000 cuts every year since 2001 from the state. But since this was said repeatedly at city council meetings, public forums, and other public meetings, folks just assume that it must be true. It isn’t. [I have the video of these meetings if anyone wants to see it, come on over.]

    So either the City staff and elected officials haven’t read their own audit reports, or the auditors are wrong, or there is more info than what is in the auditors report, or they assumed no one would actually read the auditors reports. I suspect it is a combination of all of the above.

    These reports can be better than Unisom if you want to fall asleep quickly.

    Hey look, I don’t have all the answers, I don’t have all the facts memorized. If I don’t know something I will tell you that and if I have the time, I will tell you I will do my best to find the answer to your question. If I got my facts wrong I will do everything I can to correct the facts.

    But what you are being told in 30 second sound bites is not the whole story. As one long time radio personality would say, now you have the rest of the story.

    Truth is, we really hope that our elected officials are checking these things and asking questions. But I can tell you after watching City Council meetings for the last 5 years and videotaping them over the past year, and going to more meetings then some of our elected officials, I can tell you they aren’t asking the right questions and often times don’t even know what questions to ask.

    I applaud anyone that asks for source documents to back up what I or anyone else has posted here. I will do my level best to get you the documents you want and I don’t charge FOIA fees. [grin]

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  50. Posted November 1, 2007 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    Andy, I agree with your statement.

    Check out Brian Robb’s post for good info on ISO ratings.

    http://www.east-cross.com/?p=416

    – Steve

  51. dirtgrain
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Steve. I found it: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/treasury/812040YpsilantiCity20061214_180968_7.pdf

    Based on the last bond issuance, the City continued to receive an excellent rating from Moody’s Investor Services and Standard and Poor’s. The stated rating reflects the City’s stable economic base, continued planned debt issuance, and the trend of a stable, well-managed financial
    operation.

    Economic Factors and Next Year’s Budgets and Rates

    The City’s spending budget for next year is $660,149 higher than fiscal year 2005-2006. The
    primary reason is the 3 percent increase in salaries and wages and increased cost of fringe
    benefits. The Recreation Department will continue to operate through donations and grants.

    However, the City will continue to provide for utilities and janitorial services. Property tax
    revenues are projected to increase approximately 11 percent due to the expiration of Visteon’s personal property tax abatement. Visteon will remain on the City’s tax roll next fiscal year, but the tax revenue for fiscal year 2007/2008 is uncertain. The City’s Blue Ribbon Finance Committee appointed in fiscal year 2004/2005 recommended City Council place before the voters consideration of a city income tax. City Council has the option to place this issue on the ballot at a future election. The City approved a preferred developer agreement with Joseph Freed and Associates for the water street project. This agreement provides milestones which the developer must meet in anticipation of the City approving Freed as the developer of the water street project.

    I don’t see what exactly the special projects are that you referred to, but I haven’t read the whole document. As for the raises and increase in fringe benefits, I’m not sure if it’s appropriate or not. Clearly, pay needs to keep up with inflation, which tends to average 3 to 4 percent a year, I think (haven’t checked lately, though). Does our city government typically offer raises to pace inflation? Every year? Is this what all local governments do? Is this wrong? Is your argument that salaries should not keep pace with inflation in order to fund AATA and save for future Water Street payments? I’m not sure how to make that call.

  52. Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Employees, especially non-union employees typically get a 3% annual raises. They also get step increases as they move up in their “rank”. This year the City also increased the salaries of some employees after a comparison of pay in other cities. This was what some of the $600,000 surplus was spent on. Those raises were something like 3 to 15% depending on the employee. One of the City Council members should have more data.

    I also think during one year, they froze salaries because it was a bad year. But then the next year, the made up the lost salary. So that didn’t save any money. For the City Manager, they back dated his pay raise by several months as well as granting him a lifetime pension.

    The newly hired DDA director was mistakenly given a annual increase just weeks after he was started. I think it was something like a 3% increase. But instead of taking it back when it was discovered at the end of the year, the DDA is now considering just letting him keep it. The city screwed up, but the employee doesn’t get to keep the money. They don’t have to take it back all it once, let him pay it back over time with a payroll deduction, but the DDA director should not get to keep the cities mistake. But that is how things are done at city hall. It is just like the tax giveaways that the city can’t seem to resist and it is always to some out of city, out of county, and sometimes even out of state developer.

    The spectacular part of the raises is the pay given to new employees. For example, one employee retires after some 20 years on the job. You would think at that point you had a pretty experienced employee, they should be at the top of the scale. Yet when they hire a new employee, they came in at $10,000, $12,000 even $15,000 more than the person they were replacing. Yet the new employee had far fewer years of experience, less total years in the job, less management experience and sometimes no supervisory experience, and yet they got paid more money, sometimes WAY more.

    If you hire less experienced people, they should be paid less not more than what the last person was making. Because if the new guy is getting way more money than it means you weren’t paying the old employee enough. yet our salary surveys say we pay extremely well and the benefits are unmatched in private business.

    But even before hiring a new employee, the city should have tried to look at other ways to do the same job through regionalization, cooperative efforts with other communities or a host of other ways to restructure the organization or department. The best time to do that is when the job is vacant. But the city won’t do that citing time and time again, we don’t have time, we have to hire quickly to fill the vacancy. It was exactly what the Blue Ribbon Committee said you shouldn’t do.

    Anyone want to hazard a guess at how many city employees actually live here in the city? Bonus point, name the departments with no or just one city resident. First correct answer, free beer or root beer float at the Ypsilanti establishment of my choice. Bonus answer is any appetizer at the same establishment.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  53. egpenet
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    I posted about what makes “success” in the eyes of management at Ford or Lansing or any organization (EMU?) … it’s the animalian perogative of building the pack.

    Anyhoo …

    Marck H. and the others have really hit upon it.

    And I’m just a creative loudmouth who is getting freaked out by every revlation of stupid choices made or policies created or what I read in the Public Housing Residenten’s Manual or choices on spending for “value” received (a’la Kirk Profit).

    Did I say anyhoo, already …

    I envy Partrick D. Lutali’s calm, direct and accurate portrayal of the city government, his grasp opf the real spirit of the city, and his undertsnading that: 1) the sky is NOT falling, 2) that real change is required immediately, and 3) we are being misdirected by the city at every turn … in terms of fire and police staffings, in terms of city directives, directions, choices, policies, and in terms of what the “city” feels” are the priorities over and above what the citizens consider the priorities to be.

    ALL OF THIS IS OUR FAULT, folks! We have been absentee landlords or worse for not attending council meetings, not being nactive in our neighborhood associations, not speaking out, not reading the paper … this is OUR FAULT! SHAME ON US!

    $16 million dollars down the tubes … simply because we trusted a few elected folks and a larger city staff to give us the BEST shot. We miscalculated. The BEST shot in THEIR eyes was to protect their jobs and their retirement benefits. It’s only human. We should have suspected that.

    Our elected officials DO NOT take our pulse, but rather make decisions based on their expertise, knowledge, biases and personal beliefs. If I was to work “by, of and for the people” I’d have a better sense of what “the people” wanted me to do.

    On the Federal level, Dingel knows that, and he does exactly what his campaign contributors (unions and car companies and oil companies) want him to do … screws us royally, but that’s the game. Trickle down ecology.

    On the Ypsilanti level, Profit has been fighting the good fight against the conservatives … but he has brought us a welfare eeconomy in this city that has starved the middle class of taxable real estatee and has attracted the do-nothings who leeeach at the public trough. On top of that, he has helped contribute to the build-up of the beaurocracy needed to care for two to three generations of state-mandated poor … you don’t get shit from the state unless you are poor or pregnant and single.

    So, our landscape in the city is state employees doling out funds, services. And meanwhile, the poor Sheriff is wondering where to houuse the single dads and petty junkies and prostitues and juvenile offenders who the welfare statee has CREATED. Slice and dice the numbers foplks, but our smart politicians have CREATED this problem and alll they can come up with is NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, which is UNDER FUNDED.

    Do we really hate Aftro-Americans that much? Uh, huh.

    Our laws, since slavery was abolished, have institutionalized slavery. Poverty IS SLAVERY. Being a single mom IS SLAVERY, and it condemns your children to juvenile justice. Being a black juvenile in the justice system condemns you to a life of crime … because you have no alternatives … no family support system … no money … no education. So, what are the courts supposed to do?

    That’s what the City of Ypsilanti’s Public Housing Commission’s resident’s manula reads likee a code book for how to get along at Guantanamo. It’s a racial issue that makes mee crazy. It’s an inter-racial middle class vwrsus poor class things that makes me nuts. And WORSE it’s how we do business with citizens at the Federal, State and local level … and in the courts!

    Vote NO on Tuesday … despite my rantings … because Patrick D. Lutali has a clear voice and and clear head.

  54. Posted November 2, 2007 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    Someone asked for info on the latest City Surplus. Here is a presentation that is up on City’s website. Enjoy

    http://cityofypsilanti.com/news/GoalSettingPresentation12162006

    Last year, the former mayor kept telling voters the city was going to have a $1.5 shortfall. Not only did they not have that shortfall, they had a $600,000 surplus. They were off by $2.1 million. That is a huge error for a budget that was just over $15 million.

    Early in 2005, the former mayor and City manager told the blue ribbon committee that there was an expected $2.5 shortfall for the fiscal year 2005-2006. Again they ended up with a surplus on the year. In August 2005, Councilman Bill Nickels tabled the City Income Tax proposal saying he just couldn’t see asking voters for an income tax when the City had a surplus. He said it would be hard to make the case for an income tax.

    In December 2005, the former mayor said during the budget hearings at the Haab medical center that the city hadn’t caused enough pain for the voters to understand why they needed a city income tax. Shortly after that, a proposal was launched to cut funding for bus service and eliminate the utilities subsidy for rec facilities.

    I tried to go back several months later to get copies of the tapes, only to learn that the mayor and council had ordered the then city clerk to destroy all audio tapes after the minutes were approved. It is one of the reasons that I started video recording city council meetings and posting them on the web. Council can’t order those tapes destroyed.

    The best part. In the city’s legal response this week over the lawsuit on the ballot language, the city attorney quoted an YpsiNews video and even referred the judge to our web video URL so the judge could review what was actually said during a city council meeting. You just can’t make this stuff up. ‘night,

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  55. Dirtgrain
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    I told you all I was going to flip out if we had any more unsubstantiated claims. I lied. I’m pretty calm right now. As the vote gets nearer, we see more and more unsubstantiated claims. I’m on unsubstantiated claim overload right now. As a political tactic, it can be effective. Repeat an unsubstantiated claim enough times, and it becomes a truth in the minds of the listeners. You also seemingly shift responsibility to your opponents to prove your claims wrong. Feh. You should substantiate your own claims. As it is, I won’t jump into the water with you. I would like Paul Schreiber to address some of these issues. I am part of the public, and I want to be informed. How many unsubstantiated claim hoops can he jump through, though?

    What does the former mayor have to do with all of this? Is it still her government in place? Did Paul Schreiber have any connections to her government before he was elected? She may have endorsed him–I don’t remember–but any connections other than that? Does he really have a secret agenda against the citizens of Ypsilanti?

    Steve, could you tell me how long our current city council members have been serving? Are they at the root of all the problems that you have suggested? Are they paid? I just don’t see them as arbitrarily wanting to pay city employees ridiculous sums. What would be their motivation for this?

    Egpenet, could you be any more Dan Quayle? Egpenet said, “Being a single mom IS SLAVERY, and it condemns your children to juvenile justice.”

  56. rodneyn
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    “What does the former mayor have to do with all of this? Is it still her government in place? Did Paul Schreiber have any connections to her government before he was elected?… Does he really have a secret agenda against the citizens of Ypsilanti?”

    Nice try, dirtgrain.

  57. Posted November 2, 2007 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Dirtgrain,

    The former mayor is now the co-chair of the supporters of higher income taxes campaign.

    Mayor Schreiber was appointed by the former Mayor to the Ypsilanti Housing Commission and served for the last 10 years. He was chair of the board for the last two years. If you want to learn more about the Housing Commission, go to YpsiNews.com and search for “Housing Commission”

    As far as how long Council members have served I can’t remember how long everyone has served and I am sure I would get one term wrong and then criticized for not getting the facts correct. You can call the City Clerks office and they can get you the length of term for each council member. Let us know if they ask you to file a FOIA request. 483-1100.

    I don’t think they are arbitrarily paying ridiculous sums, they just don’t know when to say no or even ask why something is being proposed.

    Let me give you one example. After a very long meeting that had been going on for over 4 hours with no break, the council went into a closed session to discuss a contract for the police command officers. Then asst City manager Bob Bruner made his presentation and 40 minutes later council came out and voted to approve the contract.

    I heard about the terms of the contract and was surprised. Several weeks later, Paul Schreiber was at a community forum and I asked him, why did he and the rest of the City Council approve a contract that guaranteed a minimum of 12 hours of overtime every two weeks for the command officers. Whether they worked it or not, they get 12 hours guaranteed. That is a 15% pay bump. Plus there was the usual annual increase which I think was something around 2 to 3%. Work 80 hours get paid for 92. Work 100 hours get paid for 92.

    Think about human nature, are you going to work more than 92 in a pay period. Not likely, but you would be more than happy to only put in 82 and get paid for 92. The argument was it limits overtime. So by guaranteeing overtime, it limits it. Right!

    Why not just stop approving all that overtime in the first place. If senior management refused to pay the overtime, they would not get paid. I believe last year the police department ran about $700,000 in overtime which is about 10% of the total budget. Some senior officers got as much as $30,000 in overtime pushing their salaries over $100,000 a year.

    Schreiber’s response was that they (the Council) had not approved such a guarantee. He dismissed me by saying I didn’t know what I was talking about. I said he should go back and see what he actually approved. I then asked two other Council members why they had voted to approve guaranteed overtime. They told me they knew nothing about that provision and were surprised.

    Well Schreiber went and researched the issue and sure enough the Mayor and Council did approve the 12 hours guaranteed overtime. The Council then started backtracking saying the overtime will actually reduce the overtime spent. “That Dog don’t hunt” as my Dad will often say.

    The point I was making is the Mayor and Council approved terms and a contract they had never read until they saw it for the first time at a closed session well after midnight in five hour a marathon meeting. How can you make reasonable decisions? You can’t.

    But they did approve this contract. Now just watch, someone will try to defend the 12 hour overtime guarantee. But there is no defense, when no one on City Council knew they were approving that provision before they voted to approve the contract you can’t then go back and retroactively defend your decision.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  58. Posted November 2, 2007 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Dirtgrain,

    When you call the clerk you can also get salaries of City Council members. 483-1100

    Let me us know what they tell you.

    – Steve

  59. rodneyn
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Steve,

    I take back what I said in an earlier post about renegotiating and bidding out city contracts to save money. After the example you just described, I would be concerned that the City Council would inadvertantly approve something much worse!

  60. Dirtgrain
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Wow. That’s pretty quirky to have gauranteed overtime written into a contract–I suppose it’s akin to setting a salary, but I’ve never heard of it before. I do understand that in planning for staffing numbers, overtime pay is considered in comparison with the cost of highing additional staff–and all the benefits and other money that would incur. So, overtime pay for our police officers is not necessarily a bad thing for us financially–it may be cheaper than hiring additional officers. But gauranteed overtime–I’d like to see that contract, and I’d like to see if it’s something other governments have done.

    Steve said, “The point I was making is the Mayor and Council approved terms and a contract they had never read until they saw it for the first time at a closed session well after midnight in five hour a marathon meeting.”

    That’s a pretty strong accusation–and if true, it would piss me off to no end. Again, all I have is to take your word for it. I can’t (nothing personal), and I’m running out of time to verify any of this, as the vote is quickly approaching. I’m frustrated.

    I have a broader question: why aren’t all these things you keep telling us about the Ypsilanti government part of an organized campaign against the income-tax proposal? I don’t recall seeing them specifically on the anti-income-tax website (I can’t find the link in a Google search–could you post the website URL again?).

  61. Publius
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Let me get this straight. I need to give myself a paycut in the form a tax increase so city employees can maintain their 3% annual raises?

    I haven’t had a raise in years. When pro-tax people say the city has cut to the bone, you would assume that they have renegotiated contracts and that employees have had to make major concessions.

    I think the City hasn’t even scratched the surface of real cost cutting. I am really starting to get angry.

  62. Glen S.
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    “I have a broader question: why aren’t all these things you keep telling us about the Ypsilanti government part of an organized campaign against the income-tax proposal? I don’t recall seeing them specifically on the anti-income-tax website…”

    Interesting point. Other than urging people to vote “no,” the SCIT website (stopcityincometax.com) provides virtually NO information aimed at helping voters weigh this issue or make an informed decision. Instead, the SCIT leaders have chosen, at the eleventh hour, to slam this and other blogs with all kinds of claims and assertions… all of which will be virtually impossible to sort out — let alone verify or disprove — in time for Tuesday’s election.

    Meanwhile the “YES” campaign’s website (www.ypsilantisfuture.com) has long included links to actual and verifiable information: City of Ypsilanti budget information, the City’s 3-Year Solvency Plan, The Blue-Ribbon Committee Report, the Plante-Moran Income Tax Feasibility Study, reports and studies from the Michigan Municipal League & SEMCOG, a link to Joe Ohren’s recent presentation at Adams School, etc.

    Meanwhile, the “YES” campaign was eager to make their case at the City-sponsored forums, but the “no” side refused to participate. The “YES” side eagerly accepted the chance to participate in the YpsiVotes virtual forum, but SCIT dragged their feet…

    Voters should ask themselves: If SCIT can prove that City leaders are bluffing about the magnitude of the budget crisis; and if they really believe better alternatives to the income tax proposal exist – then why do they continue to refuse to go “on the record?”

  63. Posted November 2, 2007 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    The above link briefly (1 or 2 pages big font/pictures) describes the revenue sharing situation in Michigan and the effect its had on cities and local law enforcement.

    Since cuts in statutory revenue sharin has a direct effect on cuts in public saftey its an important issue.

    The report Steve cites is below on pg. 84 (like he said)
    http://www.michigan.gov/documents/treasury/812040YpsilantiCity20061214_180968_7.pdf

    It says that there has been a reduction of $802,356 in revenue sharing to Ypsilanit since 2001. The key here is to notice this report was created in December 2006 and that years 2006 and 2007 are estimates. Now given the flux of the state budget situation recently 2006 and 2007 amounts “probably/most likely” decreased more than estimated b/c of the state using the revenue sharing money to balance its own budget.

    The total decrease “probably/most likely” has been $900,000 since 2001. That is the number that they have been saying all along.

  64. degutails
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    From Glen S.:
    SCIT leaders have chosen, at the eleventh hour, to slam this and other blogs with all kinds of claims and assertions… all of which will be virtually impossible to sort out — let alone verify or disprove — in time for Tuesday’s election.

    WHAT?

    The actual people involved with SCIT, as well as many people who have chosen to vote no on Tuesday, have been saying all these things for a long time. Like, years, actually, although not all that time on this particular blog. Numbers have been given and corrections made where needed.

    The above statement is an example of another thing folks on this and other blogs have been concerned about for some time – if someone just says something often enough, maybe it will be true. Wanting to believe that City Hall, which is full of nice people (true enough), wouldn’t knowingly screw up the budget for a whole city repeatedly for years doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Just because they have no motivation for incompetence doesn’t mean they’re not acting in an incompetent manner.

    Glen, you have plenty of time before the election to sort this out, since the information has been posted repeatedly here, on East Cross St., on Trusty Getto, and elsewhere, and I encourage you to do so.

    I believe the information available on the SCIT website presupposes the ability to see past the hype of the pro-tax side. You could get there, especially if you did some digging into some of these issues.

    Meredith

  65. Dirtgrain
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Degutails wrote, “Wanting to believe that City Hall, which is full of nice people (true enough), wouldn’t knowingly screw up the budget for a whole city repeatedly for years doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Just because they have no motivation for incompetence doesn’t mean they’re not acting in an incompetent manner.”

    How does this view reconcile with the following, which I already posted above?

    http://www.michigan.gov/documents/treasury/812040YpsilantiCity20061214_180968_7.pdf

    Based on the last bond issuance, the City continued to receive an excellent rating from Moody’s Investor Services and Standard and Poor’s. The stated rating reflects the City’s stable economic base, continued planned debt issuance, and the trend of a stable, well-managed financial operation.

  66. degutails
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad the city got an excellent rating, but I don’t understand either how the rating corresponds to the illustrated examples of hiring, salary, and staffing practices raised in this discussion. These are problems, which many feel are symptomatic of a larger problem, specifically one of fiscal mismanagement.

    We may be looking at two different measures of competence, or we may just be looking, in the bond issuance matter, at old data.

    Meredith

  67. Posted November 2, 2007 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Dirtgrain,

    Actually folks have been talking about this for quite some time. Remember, we are fighting City Hall. They have a very big machine that has been active in their own campaign to discredit anyone that asks a question or speaks up.

    But these facts are out there, have been discussed on numerous websites, town meetings, coffee shops, clubs, business groups, and neighborhood associations.

    Volunteers have gone to well over 50 public meetings in just the past year and video recorded over 200 hours of public meetings to show others what has been going on.

    The info is out there, but the public at large doesn’t always take an interest until a week or two before the election. Then they are stunned to learn about all the wacko things that have happened in the past year.

    The day after the election, Wednesday, is a City Council meeting. At that meeting Council is planning to agree to give away a new million tax break to an out of town developer and just wait the argument will be is the Council should agree to this tax break because they don’t want to get sued. And I guessing there will be fewer than 10 people in the audience and likely no one will speak out against this tax break.

    95% of politics is just showing up. Very few people ever show up. So that lets those that are in power rule with out accountability or citizen input. Change will only occur if we as citizens stand up together and demand change.

    If not, those that are in power will say the status quo wants them to keep doing what they are doing.

    Until citizens get so angry that they show up at every meeting and watch this stuff for themselves, nothing will change.

    But again, don’t believe me, go watch the videos.

    Have questions about the police contract. Here is the link to the minutes.

    Section 13.3
    http://cityofypsilanti.com/bd_city-council/minutes/2007/02-06-07%20Approved%20MInutes
    Page 21

    Want to see the corresponding video, got to YpsiNews.com and look up video archive and find the video form that night.

    Have more questions, just post up here or call me any time, 734-482-9682 and I will try to answer your questions and if I don’t know I will try to find out.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  68. visitor
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    In response to the Merideth’s comment about the financial management of the city. The important part of the state auditor’s comment in their 2006 report is.

    “The stated rating reflects…the trend of a stable, well-managed financial operation.” Refering to the City of Ypsilanti.

    It means what it says. This comment suggests that the city’s finances are managed well. Unlike some of the noted estimated figures in the report (2006-2007 revenue sharing), a comment like this would not become outdated in a year or two. Which supports the notion that Ypsilanti’s fiscal crisis is a result of Ypsilanti’s loss of its manufacting tax base, low taxable value, and cuts in state shared revenue. Additional reasons for Ypsilanti’s fiscal crisis are the STATE’S economic woes and local government finace structure which punishes built out older communities.

    The auditors comments go against claims that “financial mismanagement” have caused Ypsilanti to lack the revenues to maintain its service levels.

  69. Posted November 2, 2007 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Dirtgrain,

    A bond rating is simply the ability of the city to pay back the debt they want to borrow. A good bond rating means that city has a credit worthy source of money. In this case, it is the pockets of every taxpayer in Ypsilanti.

    The bond rating says nothing about whether or not the money borrowed was spent wisely or spent on projects that would do the most good for the community. It also makes no judgment on if the money should be spent on paying back the Water Street bonds or paying for police and fire service. The creditors get paid first, so when the bonds come due starting in 2009 it is up to our elected officials to determine what services or city hall staff are cut to make the bond payments.

    The city owes just under $900,000 in FY2009-2010. Each your after that the payment level increases and I believe before the Income Tax is set to sunset, the annual payment is $1.6 million. That means 10% of todays City Hall budget would go to just making the annual payment due Water Street.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  70. dirtgrain
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Okay, I went to the minutes of that meeting and found the following (http://cityofypsilanti.com/bd_city-council/minutes/2007/02-06-07%20Approved%20MInutes):
    10.2: Administrative Leave
    Administrative leave is granted to compensate members for the extra four (4) hours worked in a pay cycle, as a result of the 12 hour schedule or the modified five (5) day 84 hours schedule. Administrative leave is not granted to FLSA exempt employees as defined in Section 10.14.

    10.5: Earning Overtime
    Time and one half (1&1/2) of an non-exempt employee’s regular straight time hourly rate of pay shall be paid for all time to the nearest quarter (1/4) hour, necessarily spent on the job including compensated time with regard to holidays, vacation, sick leave, and on-the-job injury which cumulatively is in excess of twelve (12) hours per day and eighty-four (84) hours per biweekly pay period. There shall be no pyramiding of premium pay.

    10.14: FLSA Status [New Section]
    Sergeants are non-exempt employees and are to be paid for all overtime hours worked. Lieutenants assigned to the Administrative Division are non-exempt employees and are to be paid for all overtime hours worked. Lieutenants assigned to the Field Services Bureau are exempt employees under the executive and administrative exemptions. Their primary duty is management of the Bureau, they exercise discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance, they customarily and regularly direct the work of two or more other employees, and their recommendations as to employment and disciplinary decisions are given particular weight.

    Section 13.3: FLSA Exempt Employees [New Section]
    Upon the execution of this contract, Lieutenants assigned to the Field Services Bureau shall become FLSA exempt employees and will be compensated on a salary basis. This salary shall be equivalent to a biweekly rate of eighty (80) hours at the Lieutenants’ regular straight time rate plus twelve (12) additional hours at time and one-half (1&1/2) the regular straight time rate. Lieutenants assigned to the Field Services Bureau will not be paid overtime. They shall be paid for all time to the nearest quarter (1/4) hour at the employee’s regular straight time hourly rate of pay when they are called in early, called in on a day off, or held over, in each instance for four (4) hours or more in addition to their normal work schedule for that day.

    Is this the actual language that was added to the contract? They converted Lieutenant pay to a salary, seemingly based on what a Lieutenant made on average at the time (overtime included). I don’t know what the reasoning behind this was. Was there a reason? I don’t know that this necessarily condemns our administration (although your claim that they passed the contract change unaware would, if it were provable). It would be nice to hear from the administration on why they converted Lieutenant pay to a salary, although your characterization of it as guaranteed overtime is perhaps off the mark.

    Thanks for the link, Steve.

  71. Paul Schreiber
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Concerning the overtime pay that only applies to two police road patrol lieutenants:

    According to Chief Matt Harshberger, these two lieutenants are paid 42 hours/wk straight time, 4 hours/wk time and a half, and straight time for any overtime hours above 46/wk. The lieutenants average about 50 hours/wk.

    This results in a cost savings compared to the old agreement that paid time and a half for all overtime.

    Paul Schreiber

  72. Posted November 2, 2007 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Like I said in an earlier post, I was sure someone would try to justify how the decision to guarantee overtime would save money for the City. Yet the folks on Council that approved the contract didn’t know or understand what they approved. Only when asked about it weeks later, those same Council members at first denied it was true and then later, when they found out they really did vote for it, they argued that it would somehow save money.

    You want to save money on overtime, don’t approve the overtime. You can’t save money by guaranteeing hours of overtime every two weeks. You are trying to put in a contract what you can’t control through management. What this really was was a 15% pay increase for employees who can still collect overtime.

    OK, tell the Council that is what it was and tell the voters the same thing.

    There was no need to have the contract discussion in private and then not ask for public input before approving it after midnight, nearly 5 hours after the meeting started. No one can think straight after a 5 hour meeting, but this contract was obligating the city to hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses for years to come. We need our elected officials on the ball, fresh and engaged, not trying to figure out how they can get 4 hours of sleep before they have to go back to work while at teh same time voting on a new union contract.

    However, at the time the Council voted to guarantee overtime, no one on Council knew or understood what it was in the agreement nor had they seen the agreement prior to the closed session meeting. That isn’t good governance.

    Moreover, after a 45 minute presentation behind closed doors, the Council emerged at nearly 1am and voted to approve a new union contract. A contract that if memory serves me correct, was later found out to be illegal on other grounds and so more adjustments had to be made.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  73. Posted November 2, 2007 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Visitor,

    I think you are misunderstanding something. If the city officials are claiming that they have been short $900,000 a year in state shared revenue since 2001, that would mean over a 6 year period the state shorted the city some $5.4 million dollars.

    Your statement:

    “The total decrease “probably/most likely” has been $900,000 since 2001.”

    would imply a shortage of just $150,000 per year. I believe the audit report is reporting the short fall by each year and not by a running total. In fact if you look at the last column and subtract it from the 2001 total you get the shortfall. So now we know it isn’t a running total.

    So doing a quick running total, the difference in state shared revenue for the current year compared to a base year of 2001 is $4.1 million over 6 years or $695,000 a year. That is $205,000 a year less than what the city and elected officials keep repeating time and time again.

    Moreover, you can’t use just 2001 as the base. That may have been a high or low year. We don’t know. Any first year accounting student would get creamed by their professor if they made an analysis like this without showing a longer period of time or justifying why that base year was used. Like I said, when the audit was presented no one asked any questions about why the base year was selected and the auditor did not describe it.

    I am not criticizing the auditor, it is up to the client, which in this case is the city staff and city council that paid for the audit to ask for that clarification. But no one did.

    The better way to present the data and the generally accepted accounting practice (GAAP) is to show the variance from year to year in state shared funding.

    So lets look at the chart again.

    State
    Fiscal Decrease
    Year Statutory Constitutional Total from 2001
    2001 $2,519,229 1,451,119 $ $3,970,348 $ –
    2002 2,336,695 1,465,900 3,802,595 (167,753)
    2003 2,114,488 1,489,331 3,603,819 (366,529)
    2004 1,772,659 1,466,283 3,238,942 (731,406)
    2005 1,702,362 1,501,276 3,203,638 (766,710)
    2006* 1,640,998 1,526,268 3,167,266 (803,082)
    2007* 1,598,913 1,569,079 3,167,992 (802,356)

    Looking at 2003, 2004, and 2005, you can see revenue from the state has been flat. One year it was a decrease of $263,000 the other is $35,000. Then you look at other factors, talk to your lobbyist, gauge your state reps insights on next years revenue and their funding. The state will also make early predictions to help with budgeting. Factor that all in and make a prediction.

    The auditors prediction, revenue would remain flat over the next two years. And it did. If I remember correctly last years state shared revenue was about $3.1 million.

    So then you must ask, is someone goofing with the numbers to make for a worse case. We know from the auditors report over 5 years there was little change in funding.

    So while the budget plan and city officials repeat the mantra of drastic decreases in state revenue, the audit results show flat revenues over that last 5 years. Considering the incredible budget problems at the State, some would say that it is remarkable the city gets as much as they do.

    But again, what the City officials said at all three town hall meetings on the Income Tax where they were supposed to present just the facts, and what was said at the EMU debate is the state has shorted the City $900,000 per year since 2001 in state shared revenue.

    So lets review.

    1. If it is $900,000 total over 6 years that is $150,000 a year. Yet we know this isn’t true.

    2. If it is $900,000 per year for 6 years, that is $5.4 million but we know that isn’t true but that is what the city has been telling the voters. again if you don’t believe me, we recorded all three city hall town forums as well as the EMU forum, come over and we can review them. Any way, we know this to not be true because that isn’t what the audit report says.

    3. So if we look at the last audit report and use a base year of 2001, we know the shortage over 6 years is $4.1 million over 6 years or $695,000 a year. However we know we shouldn’t use a base year and number without an explanation from the auditor why that year was selected or seeing the last 10 years to make sure 2001 wasn’t an unusual year.

    4. So without having an explainer from the auditor, GAAP says to make comparisons from year to year, you use a variance. Using the variance, and what we do know from the audit and what we know from the last years revenue, we have a five year revenue stream from the state that is flat hovering around $3.1 to 3.2 million.

    Now that you have seen the latest audit available to the public without paying a FOIA fee, and quick primer on how to read one aspect of the audit, we see that what we have been told by public officials does not match the audit report that was accepted and approved by the City council, and we have shown there is a flaw in how even the auditor has calculated their chart because they didn’t explain how they selected that base year over another.

    Now to be fair, the auditor may be right. 2001 maybe a good base year. We simply don’t have enough data to pick that date. But given past experience, for example promise no general fund money spent on Water Street and guaranteed overtime and no one on council knowing they approved that, we must be skeptical and be cautious when making assumptions.

    If the auditor or city could provide citizens with the level of state shared revenue from 1991 to 2001, then we could see if there really has been drastic cuts to State Shared revenue. But we have so far never been able to get that information.

    Finally, (whew) there is still another fundamental flaw in the numbers presented by the auditors and city officials. Can anyone find it? Everything you need is in this post. Since no has yet answered the challenge about how many employees live in the city, here is a new challenge. Root beer float or ice cream at Cafe Luwaks to the first poster that can point out the other flaw in the argument made by the city and auditor.

    In the mean time, if someone on this blog would like to request the historical info from the City, it would really help bring meaning to the audited numbers. All you need to do is call the City Finance Department 483-1105 and ask them for that same data from 1991 to 2001 as is in the above chart and also get the last two years data so we can work with actuals not estimates. Then report back to to the group what you got, and how long it took and how much they charged you.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  74. Demosthenes
    Posted November 8, 2007 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    All the way at the top of this thread, Steve wrote a few things:

    “Now step back for a moment. This past summer we had a real chance at meaningful regional cooperation between the City and the Township with the joint response agreement. This plan would mean that Ypsi City and Township departments would simultaneously respond to any fire call inside the city or township. That means a quicker response to major fires, it means more firefighters on the scene which means it is safer when they enter a burning building. Great concept, little to no additional cost and substantially improve response time and save lives both firefighters and citizens”

    I thought the argument for regeonalization was to be able to REDUCE costs, not maintain status quo. ?

    “When the Township learned that LaPensee’s position was not to be filled, the township backed out of the agreement.”

    This sounds like the township doesn’t have enough firefighters and needs the City to be fully staffed to make up for it.

  75. elviscostello
    Posted November 11, 2007 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Demosthenes,

    The idea of consolidation/automatic mutual aid/ or anything else you want to call it would be for safer, more effective fire grounds. Fore example, When YFD pulls up to a structure fire (let’s use a house, not Marsh Plating or Chidester Place, which have unique hazards and problems), they have four or five, if the Yellow Bird Rescue is out, then three. The NFPA says that you can’t start interior firefighting without “2 in, 2 out”, meaning 2 inside, and 2 outside, ready to go in if the sh*t hits the fan, to rescue or assist. YTFD has a minimum of 9 on duty at any time, 4 at YTFD HQ (Ecorse and Ford Blvd.), 2 at #3 (Hewitt/Congress, and 3 at #4 (Textile and Tuttle Hill). If they get a structure fire, they would only have 2 firefighters if it’s the west side of town arrive first (which happened recently at the Apartment Complex at Congress and N. Congress). One Firefighter mans the Engine, to run the Pump, grab equipment, ask for help “hooking a hydrant”, looking for people on balconies, etc…while the other must decide if he can put out the fire from a safe position (doorway, window, etc…). Unless a life is at risk (and how can you really tell at any time whether someone is inside, unconcious, etc)…the “nozzleman” is not supposed to go in by himself. For as long as I can remember, the firefighters have done so, putting themselves at greater risk. The next engines show up 4-6 minutes later, coming from their stations, and make entry, etc…
    Last January, the Township Board decided, due to the concerns of the Fire Department and spurred by the fire deaths in West Willow, to temporarily add one extra “slot” to station 4, which covers 17.5 sq. miles of homes, lake, industrial plants, schools, apartments, shopping centers, and high speed roads. That brought the daily staffing of that station to 3 firefighters. Now they have 1 to handle the pump, hydrant, etc…while two can start to make entry (still is not NFPA compliant), while the other trucks are 4-6 minutes or more away. So back to your question, who is understaffed? Both departments are. To be more effective, to be safer, to provide a better attack on a fire, on arrival when it is the smallest, both departments should be bigger. The AMA agreement was to get everyone rolling, and have more hands at the fireground. As a matter of fact, YFD, in some areas would beat the YTFD backup units to the south side of YT, to assist the southside station. The westside YTFD station would be scant minutes away from helping YFD on a fire anywhere east of River St. Now why the problem? If Ypsilanti does not keep up their manpower level, why would Ypsilanti Township supplement Ypsi City fire services? If Ypsi City cuts firefighters, what do they bring to the table? Township residents pay a tax rate for firefighters and the board has decided what that will be (however, it must be said that the YT board has cut fire millages from 1979-2007 to send to other township departments, especially police. The fire department had 36 personnel in 1979, running 1200 runs. Today they have 33 personnel running almost 4000 runs!). All this does not even address the issue of medical responses. If YFD does not run on medicals anymore, who do you expect to handle cardiac arrests, vehicle accidents which need Jaws of Life, overdoses, burns, childbirths? HVA is a good provider, but what happens when you need EMS and all their units are tied up? How long do you want to wait for a unit to get there and help? My dad used to say that you get what you pay for, if you “short” public safety, your fire losses get larger, people suffer unnecessarily, and I believe the quality of life in the community suffers.

  76. MG
    Posted June 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Will someone remind me to ask Steve Pierce about this?

  77. Erectile Function
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    I’ve enjoyed reading over the comments in this thread about how things would be if the income tax didn’t pass.

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