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Financial Planning Committee tries to tackle budget problems

Financial Planning Committee tries to tackle budget problems

(Crystal A. Proxmire)

When the Ferndale City Council asked residents to volunteer to crunch the City’s financial numbers and give citizen input on the financial crisis and $3 million deficit for the next fiscal year, they didn’t expect over two dozen residents to apply.

“The turnout to serve was much greater than expected, and we are grateful for everyone that wants to be involved,” said City Manager Bob Bruner.  Bruner went through the applications and made recommendations to Council in an attempt to create a diverse group of residents both geographically and politically.

The following are Bruner’s recommendations and the result of those recommendations:

Precinct 1 –

Recommendation: Mark Van Dyke.

Appointed (*): Mark Van Dyke.

“His experience as a Certified Public Accountant may be valuable to the Committee,” wrote Bruner.  Van Dyke was nominated by Melanie Piana and approved.

Precinct 2 –

Recommended: Tom Gagne, Kathryn Hershberger and Scott Helmer.

Appointed (*): Kathryn Hershberger, Scott Helmer, and Daniel Harteau.

“Precinct 2 generated the more applications than any other precinct, nearly double its closest rival, so I am recommending the most appointments from this precinct,” wrote Bruner.  “As a former candidate for Mayor and City Council, Mr. Gagne has familiarized himself with the City government and its financial challenges.  Ms. Hershberger has familiarized herself with the City and its financial challenges by frequently attending Council meetings.  Mr. Helmer was a member of the Fiscal Review Committee so he is already familiar with the City Government and the financial challenges it faces.  In addition, his finance experience may be valuable to the Committee.”

Hershberger and Helmer were chosen.  Mayor Craig Covey, who was not allowed to make nominations, recommended that someone else on Council nominate Gagne, since he was one of the few residents who attended many of the budget meetings from the previous year, and has been vocal about his concerns over City spending. Despite both Bruner and Covey’s recommendation, no one on Council gave him a nomination.

Councilperson Mike Lennon also nominated Steve Kuzmanovich from Precint 2, but was unable to get a second on the motion.

Kate Baker also nominated Daniel Harteau from Precinct 2, and he was approved.

Precinct 3 –

Recommended: Sharon Chess

Appointed (*): Sharon Chess

Sharon Chess was the only applicant from this Precinct.  She was nominated by Kate Baker and approved.  Chess is the owner of Chess Roofing and Siding and the head of the Promotions Committee of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA)

Precinct 4

Recommended: Bob Porter.

Appointed(*): Bob Porter

“As a member of the Fiscal Planning and Budget Administration Advisory Committee” from 1988 to 1990 and as Mayor from 2002 through 2007, Mr. Porter may be more familiar with the City Government and it’s financial challenges than any other resident,” Bruner wrote.  Porter was nominated by Baker and approved.

Precinct 5 –

Recommended: Tom Jones.

Appointed(*):  None

Tom Jones was the only resident in Precinct 5 to apply by the deadline.  He was not chosen for the committee.

Precinct 6 –

Recommended: Greg Pawlica.

Appointed (*): Greg Pawlica

Greg Pawlica, former City Council candidate and member of the Police and Fire Board, was the only one from Precinct 6 to apply.  He was nominated by Scott Galloway and appointed.

Precinct 7 –

Recommended: Ben Updyke.

Appointed (*): Ben Updyke.

Updyke was the only resident from Precinct 7 to apply.  He was nominated by Kate Baker and approved.

Precinct 8 –

Recommended: Crystal Proxmire.  Proxmire is the editor and publisher of this paper.  Had she been chosen she would have declined the position, even though she was one of only a couple residents who attended the budget planning meetings in the previous year.

Appointed (*)– Joel Petrie.

Proxmire not appointed.  Joel Petrie was appointed from this Precinct, having been nominated by Kate Baker. Petrie is a mortgage broker and the Ferndale High School election liaison and a former election inspector.  He was also nominated as the Chairperson.

Precinct 9 –

Recommended: Dennis Whittie

Appointed(*): Dennis Whittie

“Mr. Whittie was a member of the Fiscal Review Advisory Committee so he is already familiar with the City government and it’s financial challenges,” Bruner wrote.  Whittie was nominated by Galloway and approved.

Other Appointees –

Appointed: John McQuiggin (not a Ferndale resident)

Jacki Smith ( *not sure what Precinct, will update when information is available)

Mayor Covey mentioned a request from the Downtown Development Authority that Council approve business owner Jacki Smith, and said that their second recommendation would be John McQuiggin, manager of Paramount Bank.  Smith is the owner of Candlewick Shop and Coventry Creations, an active member of the DDA and a Ferndale Resident.  (Her application was not included in the council packet, so though she is a resident we’ve not yet verified which Precinct she resides in).  Smith was nominated by Councilperson Melanie Piana, and approved.

McQuiggin does not live in Ferndale although he is active in many Ferndale organizations.  Covey recommended that someone nominate him, which Lennon did.  McQuiggin’s nomination was approved.

The group held their first meeting on September 15, 2010 at the Kulick Center, and plans on meeting each Wednesday until the first week of November, when they are expected to present their findings to Council.

Bruner has provided them with links to relevant City financial records, which are public information available to all on the City’s website –

Some initial information came out in the first meeting that will help the Committee make their recommendations.

For example committee members learned that charging fees for services cannot legally be used as a way for the City to make money.  Bruner said that fees must not exceed the cost of services due to a decision by the State Supreme Court, known as the Bolt Decision – The committee has asked Bruner for a list of all services that the City currently charges a fee for.

Bruner also explained about how the City budget is divided up into funds.  For example money is allocated to departments like the Department of Public Works and the DDA  that don’t factor into the General Fund.  Saving money in these departments may be nice, but it doesn’t help the City get any more money into the General Fund.

Members of the committee are now tasked with coming up with ideas for ways to cut spending or increase revenue.

The Ferndale 115 News has been committed to coverage and increasing our own knowledge of the City’s budget process so that we can bring that information to more residents in a way that is easy to understand.  We believe in the power of the press to create healthy dialogue, and we are asking readers to get involved in the process.

We want to hear your ideas for how the City should cover the $3 million deficit left by declines in property values and state revenue sharing. We will be collecting ideas from readers and if we get enough good ones (ie, suggestions that are practically applicable to decreasing the deficit), we’ll present them to the committee – and to other readers – to consider. We’ll also share any information we have about specific suggestions.  If you have any ideas for the City to consider, please submit them to  Your name will not be published or shared with anyone on this topic, unless you tell us specifically that we can use it.

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