Financial Committee Continues…

Financial Committee Continues Towards Making City Budget Recommendations

(Crystal A. Proxmire)

The Financial Committee, made up of 11 residents and 1 businessperson, has been meeting each Wednesday since September 15 to Just 4 Usdiscuss ideas for how the City can get past the $3 million dollar deficit they are facing for Fiscal Year Ending 2012.  There is not yet a consensus on what those solutions might be, but they are expected to report their ideas to City Council on November 8.

The committee is made up of non-resident John McQuiggan, and residents Mark Van Dyke, Kathryn Hershberger, Scott Helmer, Daniel Harteau, Sharon Chess, former Mayor Bob Porter, Greg Pawlica, Ben Updyke, Joel Petrie, and Dennis Whittie.

The group has divided into subcommittees – one to examine potential revenue increases, the other to look at expenditures.  These dedicated individuals have given up their entire evening each Wednesday for the meetings, plus the time it takes to read through the pages of e mails and reports that are exchanged each week. Regular meeting attendee Tom Gagne, Dennis Hoeppner, Ferndale 115 News Editor and Publisher Crystal Proxmire, and Recreation Department Supervisor Julie Hall have been to multiple meetings.  Other residents have sat in as well, and the group has gotten presentations from City Manager Bob Bruner, Police Chief Timothy Collins and Fire Chief Kevin Sullivan.

UPCOMING PUBLIC MEETINGS

On Wed. Oct 20, 2010, the Committee is expected to hear from Police and Fire Union leaders, as well as the Executive Director of the Downtown Development Authority about how their respective interests play into balancing the budget.  The meeting is held at The Kulick Community Center (1201 Livernois) from 6:30 to 8pm or later.

All of the meetings are open to the public, and the City has been vocal about their desire to get ideas from residents.  Cities across the State have been cutting back services, laying off workers including police and fire personnel, and even handing over responsibilities to their respective Counties.  The two largest sources of money that cities can use to operate come from State Revenue Sharing (sales tax money which is collected statewide and redistributed to the cities) and Property Taxes.  Both of these are down drastically, and Ferndale must now figure out how to function with a lot less money coming in.

BIGGEST BUDGET ISSUE: POLICE AND FIRE FUNDING

One of the biggest issues facing City Council as they make decisions about the budget is the fact that 60% of the General Fund goes to Police and Fire Services.  The City has been in contract negotiations with the unions involved and asked them to make concessions in pay and benefits in order to maintain staff levels.  All non-union employees took a 5% pay reduction earlier this year, and the City hopes that Police and Fire will do the same.  A group of officers has begun a public relations campaign called Wake Up Ferndale to encourage residents to speak at council and demand that there be no cuts in pay or in personnel.  They hired upstart ad agency Driven to head a campaign that included signs in the business’s windows and a postcard to every home asking people to come to the next Council meeting and complain. Despite the campaign, not a single person showed up for the meeting.

The group has remained anonymous in their online communications, although The Ferndale 115 News has been in contact with the officer leading the movement who says that the City can save police officers by implementing a dedicated traffic control program to raise money by ticketing speeders and other drivers caught breaking the rules, mainly along 8 Mile Road.  This idea has also been considered by the revenue sub-committee.

The group has also called for a dedicated Public Safety millage.  The millage would raise taxes for homeowners, although those opposed to a dedicated millage have noted that only 14.8% of patrol officers and 36.4% of commanding officers live in the City and would be affected by the increase.  The Committee will likely learn more about the traffic detail study at the Wednesday evening meeting.

MORE BUDGET DISCUSSION

The City’s Budget and related documents are available on the City of Ferndale website – http://www.ferndale-mi.com/

Right now the Committee is still gathering information and considering suggestions.

In the interest of gathering as many ideas as possible, The Ferndale 115 News has sought out suggestions from readers – and will continue to do so through November 2, 2010.

Below you’ll find (1) Suggestions that have been tossed around at the Committee meetings or in Committee E Mails, (2) Suggestions from readers and any info we have to add to them, and (3) old Ferndale 115 News articles from the 2011 budget process to give readers a better sense of how Council figures out these things.

IDEAS DISCUSSED IN COMMITTEE:

Committee Discussion. The following are suggestions brought up, but not finalized, within Committee discussions and e mails.  Note that this is still just the “idea” phase, and none of these have been presented to Council:

●Millage increase – Ferndale puts a 4.5 mill increase on the ballot under the Headlee Override act.   We recommend this over any other special purpose millage due to the Ferndale Charter not authorizing special purpose mileages.

●Each department within the city who’s funding comes from the general fund look at ways of increasing the income for their department by 25% through increased efficiency or additional sources of income.

●Increased collection of community fees.  With the purchase and subsequent training of Enterprise software, we see the potential of a larger capture of fees.  We also request a comprehensive cross department plan of cooperation to increase the capture of community fees by 25%.    Through observation and rough estimates we see a deficit of 50% in the fees eligible for collection

●Increase in community fees.  With the rising costs in doing business, we feel that the community fees, with a specific focus on Landlord fees, can be reviewed and raised 5-10% and remain within the legal limit of covering costs only.

●Dedicated Traffic officers.  Due to budget cuts, Ferndale Police does not employee any dedicated traffic officers.  According to Chief Collins, his view is that 3 dedicated traffic officers will bring in a significant net income through traffic violations.

●Investigate the feasibility of a parking officer for patrolling the residential areas for illegal parking.  Re-zone downtown residential areas as permit parking only, allowing a limited number of passes to residents and charging for additional passes.

●DDA Contribution to general fund.  IT was recommended that the DDA contribute for Police officers during high bar traffic times (Friday and Saturday nights) and/or contribute to administration and accounting fees.

●Special Events.  The Dream Cruise is a break even event in the city.  How can the Special events department double the income from special events throughout the year? For example, merchandise, branding Ferndale, charging for other vendors to come in, etc.  We would like to see this department generate an additional $100,000 a year for Ferndale.

●Review rent fees for city owned buildings.  Do we need to increase these to cover costs?

●Licensing service companies that work in Ferndale; snow plowing, lawn maintenance, etc.  Having DPW plow snow at businesses that are negligent in their maintenance and ticketing them for it.  (Winter Blight)

●Parking management for the downtown area.  Either empower the DDA to manage the parking, including a parking garage, create a parking management system within the city government (including a garage) or outsource the parking all with the intention of bringing in 100k – 200k into the general fund every year.

●Kulick center – Review fees and look at increasing them 5-10%.  Promote rental of Kulick center for outside function to raise income 10-25%.  Investigate a shuttle program during downtown and city events to generate funds and ease parking congestion.

●All day parking passes during special events in the city.

●Royal Oak Township police and fire services – study to see if this would increase the cities budget or be a drain on it.

According to a Committee e mail, “Cities around the country are looking to alternative ways to increase revenue.  The National League of Cities Winter 2009 newsletter cites many innovative ideas:

Little Rock Arkansas, pop 183K increased their business licenses collection by $250,000 in one year because of coordinated efforts between the finance department, a local data collection agency, law enforcement, and the courts.  They attained assistance from local university business accounting students to contact the businesses that needed to complete the license applications.

Newport Beach, CA, pop 70k, put together an identification system where residents and business could access their account in one location and make payments online.  They could see parking tickets, business licenses, municipal services and alarm fees by using one ID number and one central location.  In the first year, they were able to collect over $625,000 in outstanding receivables and over $500,000 in other fees.

Ferndale needs to look at its resources to determine if there is something we can capitalize on internally or sell to other communities.”

READER DISCUSSION OUTSIDE COMMITTEE

Members of Wake up Ferndale have suggested a dedicated traffic control, focused along 8 Mile Road.  “While studying 8 Mile I found an abundance of speeding violations along with red light violations at Fair Street and Hilton.  The average speed for the vehicles I stopped was 59 MPH in a 40 MPH zone.  I found the engineering of the shoulders and the turnaround on 8 Mile provided safe areas to conduct traffic stops.  I also observed a steady flow of Motor Carrier traffic and numerous violations that I was unable to enforce pending the creation of a Motor Carrier fine schedule by the 43rd District Court,” said the report (Ferndale Police Department Traffic Detail Study 2010).  The Study did not give specific totals for how much income this could raise, but demonstrated that the potential to write numerous tickets is there.

●A reader suggested that the City stopped matching grants for non-essential projects.

●A reader suggested that the DDA begin contributing to the General Fund to help cover the cost of the Bar patrols that keep the Mother fletchersDowntown area safe on the busy weekend nights.  This suggestion was also brought up by the revenue committee.

●Others suggested the City not spend money on building projects during lean fiscal times.  Recently the City voted to remodel City Hall, and though the project will pay for itself in three years with increased efficiency for the lower staff levels, there are some readers who are concerned it could have been done less expensively.  For more information on the remodeling project and the City’s reasons behind it, please see our previous article http://www.ferndale115.com/20100801cityhall.html.

●Readers have suggested cutting out the Parks and Recreation Department, eliminating special events in the City, Eliminating the Department of Public Works and letting the County manage our infrastructure, and eliminating the City Manager position. One reader had the suggestion “there are too many cops as it is.  Get rid of the whole department.”

●Other readers and City leaders have suggested that combining services with other cities might be a money-saving plan.  The Fire Department has been in discussion with Madison Heights and Hazel Park about possibly forming a Regional Fire Authority.   Ferndale already provides fire and rescue services for Royal Oak Township and Pleasant Ridge, which brings revenue into the department.

We will accept other reader suggestions through November 2, 2010 – which is the date the Financial Committee is expected to present their recommendations to Council.

PREVIOUS Ferndale 115 NEWS BUDGET ARTICLES

Financial Planning Committee tries to tackle budget problems

http://oaklandcounty115.com/2010/09/27/185/

The articles below are from last year’s budget process, and may provide readers with a more complete picture of how budget decisions are made by the City Council.

May 5, 2010 – Final Budget Approved

www.ferndale115.com/20100505cutsfinal.html

May 4, 2010 – Council Puts off Budget Vote, Debates Parking and Animal Control

http://www.ferndale115.com/20100504budget.html

April 30, 2010 – Council approves individual sections of the general fund budget, waits to decide on DDA contributions and how to handle remaining $300,000 deficit

http://www.ferndale115.com/20100430budget.html

April 9, 2010 – Will DDA take over Parking?

www.ferndale115.com/20100409ddaparking.html

April 4, 2010 – City, Fire and Police Give their Sides in Budget Talks http://www.ferndale115.com/20100401departments.html

Feb. 1, 2010 – Public Forums to Discuss Parking http://www.ferndale115.com/20100201parking.html

Jan 1, 2010 – Parking Fines Go Up, Other Changes to Come http://www.ferndale115.com/20100101.html

HOW TO HAVE YOUR VOICE HEARD:

Members of the public are welcome at City Council meetings and Financial Committee meeting.  You can also send your suggestions to us at The Ferndale 115 News and we will add them to this collection.  Also use your voice by sending in letters to the editor (we call them Ferndale Views!) to editor@ferndale115.com.

About the author

Oakland County Times has written 11380 articles for Oakland County Times

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