Ypsilanti budget woes

Today, the first day of the new year, was wonderful. Among other things, I went for a hike through the bright, snowy woods, downed countless bowls of shrimp bisque, and made some new friends. I can’t imagine getting 2010 off to a better start… But then I came home. Opened my email. And found the following from the Mayor.

Ypsilanti Neighbors and Friends:

On Monday, January 11, and Tuesday, January 19, Ypsilanti City Council will convene two final goal-setting meetings that will shape the city’s budget for the next two years. At the November goal-setting meeting City Council targeted a $1.4 million (10 percent) expenditure reduction to balance the budget through 2013 (see first graph below). The 2011 revenue excess will balance the 2013 shortfall.

At the December goal-setting meeting city staff parsed the budget into expenditure categories (see second graph below). Approximately one third of the $13 million budget is comprised of fixed costs, services required by the city charter, contract costs, and expenditures that generate revenue. All of these expenditures offer minimal opportunities to cut costs.

The remaining two-thirds of the budget are discretionary expenses. The discretionary category includes parks maintenance, festivals, city planning, ordinance enforcement, and public safety (medical emergency assistance, fire suppression, and police services). Public safety expenses account for 87 percent of the city’s discretionary expenditures and more than half of its total budget.

On January 11 and 17 cutting the discretionary expenditures by $1.4 million will be the main focus of discussion. A possible revenue increase using drug forfeiture money will also be discussed. All interested persons are welcome to attend these goal-setting meetings.

As expenditures are reduced, services may be curtailed and non-emergency response times may be increased. But the citizens of Ypsilanti can be assured that police officers, fire fighters, and city staff will continue to respond quickly to emergencies.

Best regards,
Paul Schreiber
Mayor, City of Ypsilanti
734-277-5446

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cityexpenses2a

Hopefully the recent sale of the Visteon plant, and the associated jobs that are to come along with it, will mitigate this to some extent, but, even with that, we’re still looking at having to make some serious, painful cuts. People who have served the City well these past several years will be losing their jobs, and we as a community will have to deal with the ramifications of having fewer police officers on the street and fewer firefighters on call. I’m tempted to blame previous administrations for the mistakes which led us here, and call out those who reassured us, when we were debating the possibility of a city income tax, that there would be no cuts at either the police department or fire station, but I don’t see as how it would do us much good now. The facts are what they are. And, like it or not, we have to deal with them. It’s not something I necessarily wanted to think about today, on January 1, but I suppose it’s something that we’ve got to face head on. Anyway, here’s hoping that our elected officials can arrive at solutions that can keep us afloat until things start to turn around, and we figure out a way forward with Water Street.

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11 Comments

  1. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 1, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    I for one would like to see council take a substantial pay cut. I think 30% is a good round number. This would really be a token gesture, but in the face of the cuts we are facing, I think that council needs to make a serious sacrifice. The 5% cut recently proposed by council is laughable, it would amount to less than $300 a year.

    Council deserves to be paid for the work they do, but a substantial pay cut is in order. A 30% cut is a drop in the bucket of the city’s financial crisis. In the face of the loss of so many jobs and services, it is the right thing to do to show us that council and the mayor are going to be making sacrifices along with the rest of us. In my opinion, anything less than 30% would be an insult to the police and fire fighters of the city, not to mention the citizens.

    Oh, and I know this is a pet issue, but canceling the DTCDC contract for park maintenance and adding over $20,000 a year to the city’s budget just to cut the grass looks pretty foolish now, doesn’t it? That fiasco was a petty political game, and it did nothing but hurt the city.

    Oh, and there is a plan being floated to build a farm on Water Street to provide a temporary use for the property, so its something other than a vacant lot, and maybe generate some food or income in the process. There will be a meeting and presentation on the plan tomorrow at 2PM at the Tap Room.

  2. Posted January 2, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I agree with you, Andy. Pay cuts for our elected officials should definitely be considered.

  3. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 2, 2010 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    One of the ideas for positive revenue mentioned here involves forming a city narcotics unit so that we become eligible to use forfeiture money to pay officer salaries. While I am all for new revenue for the city, I think this is a terrible idea. Any time you have police who must arrest people and seize their money and property in order to pay their own wage, you are asking for trouble. That is not to say I don’t trust the YPD and Chief Walker (I trust Mrs. Walker more than our recent cheifs) but putting law officers in this situation is to invite corruption and overzealous policing. We already have the questionable ethics of LAWNET, do we really want another mercenary narcotics unit?

  4. Glen S.
    Posted January 2, 2010 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    I’m extremely uncomfortable with the proposal to increase revenues using drug forfeiture money. Using forfeiture funds to supplement the existing police budget, as we’re now doing — for instance, to help subsidize the cost of training or equipment — is one thing; but proposing to make this “revenue source” a permanent budget line, with one or more police positions dependent on a steady stream of confiscated drugs, cash, cars, etc., is quite another.

    Not only do I fear the legal and civil liberties consequences of an inevitable shift toward an overzealous “war on drugs” -style approach to local law enforcement; I’m also concerned such a program would shift limited resources toward drug enforcement, and away from essential community policing, crime prevention, and investigative duties.

  5. elviscostello
    Posted January 3, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    You know, Mark, It’s interesting to me how they lump Police , Fire and Mecial Emergency as one area. How about they break down the costs for each department? A layoff of 6 Firefighters is 1/3 of the force. how does that translate to 1/3 of Police, or Administration, or DPW? How effective will the Fire Department be with such cuts? Maybe Pete Murdock could answer that for us…

  6. Posted January 3, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    I’ll certainly ask him, Elvis.

  7. EOS
    Posted January 3, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    There’s a substantial amount of money to be saved that is included in the $4.6 Million of “fixed costs”. Council salaries can be reduced, health benefits can be altered, contracts for waste disposal renegotiated, recycling reduced or eliminated, AATA reduced or eliminated. Building inspection shouldn’t even be an expenditure. Fees should be raised to the level where they meet the expenditures. And notice how there is absolutely no mention of the substantial funds that are controlled by the development authorities. Why shouldn’t the businesses that make their profits in the city pay a portion of the police and fire expenses? Make them show you how they are spending the entire budget, not just the general fund. It is possible to balance the budget without any cuts to police and fire – unless cutting police and fire is at the top of your agenda in order to create the greatest amount of anxiety and increase the likelihood of voting for more taxes. If you care about the city, if you want it to continue to exist independent of receivership through the upcoming decade, then please don’t let them get away with this. Be an active participant and demand accountability and transparency.

  8. Posted January 4, 2010 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    City council pay reductions are being considered, health benefits in union and non-union contracts have been reduced, the waste disposal contract was bid in conjunction with Ypsilanti and Superior Townships, AATA contract payments are being subsidized by federal stimulus funds, and the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority will discuss service and cost-reduction options.

    Nobody on Ypsilanti City Council wants to cut police, fire, or any other employees. But according to state law, the budget must be balanced.

    Ypsilanti City Council encourages people to actively participate and attend the budget goal-setting sessions on January 11 and 19 at city hall at 6 p.m. The city council meeting packet will be posted online (http://cityofypsilanti.com/bd_city-council/Council%20Meeting%20Packets) on the Friday evening before the meetings.

    Paul Schreiber
    734-277-5446

  9. elviscostello
    Posted January 4, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Mayor, How will your fire department comply with the 2 in, 2 out rule. It states that before 2 can go into a fire and do suppression activities, ther must be two outside, available to perform a rescue of the firefighters inside. Are you considering a 2 platoon system? How will this affect firefighter work schedules and coverage of the city and campus properties?

  10. Posted January 4, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    Ypsilanti city council must determine the firefighter expenditure budget for 2011. How that budget is spent depends largely upon how it is administered by the Ypsilanti Fire Department Union. If a two platoon system would provide better service to Ypsilanti and EMU and maintain the two in-two out rule, then I hope that the YFD Union would consider it.

    It’s my understanding that the YFD currently has a three platoon (three shift) system where firefighters work one shift and are off for two shifts. A two platoon system would mean that firefighters would work one shift and be off for one shift.

    Paul Schreiber
    734-277-5446

  11. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 11, 2010 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    I’m going to say everything I said earlier again, this time with numbers, to try to encourage people to talk about this and come out to the stratigic budget sessions tonight and next Tuesday. Here we go.

    The following list of cuts being proposed for Ypsilanti City services comes straight from the blog of Ypsilanti Ward 3 Councilman Brian Robb. Remember that Brian added $20,000 to the city’s yearly park maintenance budget this summer by proposing and passing the measure that revoked the Depot Town Community Development Corporation contract to care for Riverside and Frog Island Parks, over the use of the word “Ypsitucky“. That $20,000 is only to cut the grass, and does not include any other maintenance costs. I think it’s a funny little irony that Brian is the council member talking the most about these cuts publicly. But I digress. These cuts that will be proposed at the upcoming Ypsilanti strategic budget planning sessions on January 11 and 19

    •Eliminate (6) firefighter positions for a savings of $441,283

    •Use PSAP funds to pay for the dispatch contract with the Washtenaw County for a savings of $158,000

    Eliminate (1) lieutenant’s position from the police department for a savings of $94,291

    •Eliminate (5) police officers for a savings of $293,769

    •Fund (2) LAWNET positions with drug forfeiture money for a savings of $132,657

    •Reduce non-union pay by 5% using furlough days for a savings of $73,153

    •Book $50,000 in savings from the maintenance of public buildings

    •Eliminate the recreation utilities contribution on Parkridge and the Senior Center for a savings of $35,000

    •Eliminate (2) part-time finance generalists for a savings of $60,000

    •Make the DDA pay for services for a revenue increase of $35,000

    •Book $26,847 in savings by implement cuts by March 1, 2010

    Notice there is no significant pay cut for council mentioned? Six Firefighters and Five Police Officers and council might be willing to give up 5%, or less than $300 a year per member, as offered in a resolution by Pete Murdock. Six firefighters, according to Captain Altruda(sp) of YFD at a recent council meeting, is likely the difference between saving your home or controlling how it burns, due to laws governing safety of firefighters.

    This is the breakdown on council pay form a recent Ypsilanti citizen Op Ed on the subject of Council Pay Cuts:

    …[council’s] $111,754 annual budget.

    Of the total budget, $40,700 – or 36 percent – is spent on City Council’s annual salaries. The elected officials make an average of $5,813 a year. This averages $252 per regular meeting, not including special meetings, workshops and other functions.

    Mayor Paul Schreiber and Mayor Pro Tem Trudy Swanson, D-Ward 1, make more than average salaries, at $8,964 and $5,976 respectively. Each Councilmember makes $5,151 a year.

    Murdock’s proposed cuts were across the board, but included 5 percent reduction in City Council’s salary. This would result in an average yearly loss of $290 per councilmember.

    You can read the full story at http://ypsiciti.com/section/Opinions/Council+should+make+pay+concessions+with+no+strings-article-1489.html

     

    As I said earlier, there has been talk in council of a modest pay cut, and there is some support for it. The argument against it goes like this: how will we get quality candidates if we don’t offer pay or “I’m expected to make huge donations to charity/church because I’m elected. My answer: We will really not have a problem finding quality candidates; there is a politician born every minute. As for the churches and charities; dig into you pockets a little deeper or explain to them that you too are suffering in these economic times

    And that’s what it all about. These are hard times and we are all suffering, and we all need to make sacrifices. The city needs a gesture from city council. I’d like to believe that no one is serving as an elected official in Ypsilanti for the pay.

    I am not proposing to eliminate council pay. I am advocating a 25% cut in council salaries. (5% less than I originally proposed) That’s an average cut of $1453 per member or $10,175 over all. Combined with a 10% cut to the remaining council budget this would be a total savings of $17,280; almost enough to cut the grass in Riverside and Frog Island parks. This won’t save a firefighter or a police officer. It’s a drop in the bucket. But it is a significant amount of money that can do some good in the budget. And it is a gesture of good faith the city deserves.

    Ypsilanti is facing a challenge unlike anything in recent memory. I encourage every citizen to attend the strategic budget sessions January 11 and 19 at the Ypsilanti City Hall and speak up. Let council know that you are angry at the way services are being slashed. Let them know that we all are paying when they make foolish decisions. If you have been helped by the YFD or YPD, come in an testify to the importance of our public safety departments. Even if it is now to late to stop these cuts, let them know that we are watching and expect better.

One Trackback

  1. By Ypsilanti budget cut showdown on January 11, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    […] session of City Council, our elected leaders will be discussing the proposed budget cuts that we discussed here on New Years Day. No doubt the cutting of police and fire fighters will be the most contentious. (80% of the […]

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