The city of Ann Arbor fiscal year 2015 budget has been approved by the city council. The fiscal year starts on July 1, 2014. City council action came after 2 a.m. on May 20, 2014 at a meeting that started at 7 p.m. on May 19.
The general fund component of the budget is roughly $98 million this year. In terms of staffing changes, city administrator Steve Powers’ proposed budget included one additional firefighter position, three additional police officers and one additional rental housing inspector. Those staffing levels remained the same at the conclusion of the May 19 deliberations.
When the general fund is added in with the rest of the city’s budget – the street fund, water fund, sewer fund, parking fund, and the like – the total expenses proposed for FY 2015 come to about $330 million.
The council’s deliberations on the budget resulted in several amendments, but none that had a dramatic impact on the budget. Neither of the amendments affecting the proposed police staffing levels succeeded – one that would have increased the number of polices officers by two officers instead of three, and another that would have increased the number of officers by five instead of three. A proposal to restore fall loose leaf collection failed, as did a proposal to extend compost collection to a year-round service.
Two amendments that would have affected Ann Arbor SPARK also failed. One would have required the local development finance authority (LDFA) to reserve more money for infrastructure improvements – like a high-speed communication network – and one of the likely reductions would have come from Ann Arbor SPARK. The other failed amendment would have eliminated the $75,000 annual contribution the city makes to SPARK from its general fund. Those two amendments alone took about 90 minutes of council deliberation.
Out of the 18 amendments that had been disseminated in advance of the meeting, the council approved just seven. Among the amendments getting at least a six-vote majority was a proposal to add funding for “community-facing” climate action programs, paid for in part with funds that would have otherwise been used for an Ellsworth Road corridor study.
Also getting approval were two amendments meant to generate funding to pay for animal control services. One of those amendments used money that would have otherwise funded a commercial sign inventory to pay for animal control services from the Humane Society of Huron Valley. The other encouraged increased compliance with the city’s dog licensing law, which would generate additional revenue. The city estimates current compliance with dog licensing requirements at only 7%.
The $300,000 in the proposed general fund budget allocated for the demolition of the city-owned 415 W. Washington building was eliminated for that purpose, without any other purpose identified for spending the money.
Two budget votes related to streets got approval – one directing the city administrator to explore alternative methods of street funding, and a second one allocating more money this year from Act 51 funds for alternative transportation. The council also requested more information that would allow it to set the amount of Act 51 funding for alternative transportation at the appropriate percentage level – 2.5% or 5%.
The council’s deliberations on the FY 2015 budget began around 9 p.m. and stretched more than five hours with a final vote of approval coming at 2:15 a.m. the following morning. Mayor John Hieftje, who missed the council’s May 12 work session due to illness, was not back to full strength at the May 19 meeting and departed the meeting around 1 a.m. Mayor pro tem Margie Teall (Ward 4) led the remainder of the meeting.
Outcomes on each amendment that was considered, in chronological order, are presented below, excerpted from The Chronicle’s live meeting updates. Each timestamp includes a link to council deliberations on that item, as reported in the live updates. In brackets are the names of councilmembers who sponsored the amendment.
9:01 p.m. Budget amendment: LDFA, Ann Arbor SPARK. This proposal identified some areas of increase in the budget of the local development finance authority (LDFA) – $30,000 in incubator operating expense, $20,000 in direct staffing expense, and a $75,000 increase to Ann Arbor SPARK’s marketing plan – providing potential for decrease in expenditures. The resolution would have decreased the total expenditures by $165,379 compared to the prior year’s level of $1,814,892. The unspent funds would instead be reserved for “future infrastructure improvements.” [Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Jack Eaton (Ward 4), Mike Anglin (Ward 5)]
9:33 p.m. Outcome: The council rejected this amendment on the LDFA by a 5-6 vote. Voting for it were Eaton, Kailasapathy, Anglin, Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), and Jane Lumm (Ward 2).
9:35 p.m. Budget amendment: Human Services, SPARK. This proposal would have eliminated the city general fund allocation of $75,000 to Ann Arbor SPARK and put that money toward human services. [Kailasapathy, Eaton, Anglin]
10:26 p.m. Outcome: The council rejected this amendment on SPARK funding by a 5-6 vote. Voting for it were Eaton, Kailasapathy, Kunselman, Lumm, and Anglin.
10:27 p.m. Budget amendment: Police staffing – decrease. This proposal would have increased the number of sworn officers by two officers instead of three, with the savings allocated to human services for the purpose of drug treatment and prevention. [Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5)]
10:52 p.m. Outcome: The council rejected this amendment on a 2-9 vote. Voting for it were Warpehoski and Teall.
11:01 p.m. Budget amendment: Community-facing climate action programs. Money for “community-facing” climate action programs would come in part from $50,000 allocated for the Ellsworth Road corridor study. [Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Teall, Hieftje, Warpehoski]
11:19 p.m. Outcome: The council approved this amendment on a 6-5 vote. Voting for it were Warpehoski, Teall, Taylor, Hieftje, Sally Petersen (Ward 2), and Sabra Briere (Ward 1).
11:21 p.m. Budget amendment: Police staffing – increase. This proposal would have increased the number of sworn police officers by five officers instead of an increase of three proposed by the city administrator. Funding would have come in part from a reduction in the 15th District Court budget. The resolution would also have reiterated a previous request made last year that the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority fund three downtown beat cops. [Lumm, Eaton, Kailasapathy, Anglin]
11:45 p.m. Outcome: The council rejected this amendment on a 4-7 vote. Voting for it were Lumm, Eaton, Anglin and Kailasapathy.
11:48 p.m. Budget amendment: Compost/leaf program – restore. This proposal would have restored loose leaf collection in the fall and holiday tree pickup in the winter. This would have required roughly $406,000 in capital investment and $319,500 in recurring expenses from the millage-supported solid waste fund. [Lumm, Eaton, Kailasapathy, Anglin]
12:01 a.m. Outcome: The council rejected this amendment on a 4-7 vote. Voting for it were Lumm, Eaton, Anglin and Kailasapathy.
12:01 a.m. Budget amendment: Retirement plan. This proposal would have directed the city administrator to develop a revised retirement plan design for new hires that “includes a defined contribution element and results in lower costs to the city.” The new plan design would be presented to the council by Dec. 31, 2014, with the intent that the revised plan would be applied to all employees hired after Dec. 31, 2015. [Lumm, Kailasapathy]
12:13 a.m. Outcome: The council rejected this amendment on a 3-8 vote. Voting for it were Lumm, Eaton, and Kailasapathy.
12:13 a.m. Street funding policy direction: This proposal would not alter the budget but asks the city administrator to “study alternatives to increase street funding and present to Council by Sept. 30, 2014 a report outlining options, their financial impact, and the pros and cons of each.” [Lumm, Eaton, Kailasapathy, Anglin]
12:16 a.m. Outcome: The council approved this amendment on a unanimous vote, with scant discussion. It prompted an “Oh, my god!” from Lumm, who’d seen everything she’d put forward to that point rejected.
12:16 a.m. Budget amendment: Animal control. The proposal eliminates funding for an inventory of commercial signs in favor of animal control for the Human Society of Huron Valley and for deer herd management costs. [Petersen, Kailasapathy, Eaton, Anglin]
12:30 a.m. Outcome: The council approved this amendment on a unanimous vote.
12:31 a.m. Budget amendment: Warming center. This proposal would have allocated $100,000 from the affordable housing trust fund to provide assistance for a warming center. [Lumm, Briere]
12:48 a.m. Outcome: The council rejected this amendment on a 5-6 vote. Voting for it were Kailasapathy, Briere, Petersen, Lumm, and Warpehoski.
12:56 a.m. Budget amendment: 415 W. Washington demolition – pedestrian safety. This proposal would have used some of the $300,000 in the general fund budget that’s designated for demolition of the city-owned 415 W. Washington property to fund the pedestrian safety and access task force. [Briere, Warpehoski]
1:19 a.m. Outcome: The council rejected this amendment. [We tentatively recorded this as a 5-5 vote. Hieftje had left the meeting by this point.]
1:20 a.m. Budget amendment: Compost/leaf program – extend. This proposal would have extended the curbside compostables pickup from seasonal to year-round so that food waste could be kept out of the garbage stream year-round, at an increased annual cost of $300,000. [Briere]
1:25 a.m. Outcome: The council rejected this amendment on a 3-7 vote. It got support from Taylor, Teall and Briere.
1:25 a.m. Budget amendment: Art administration, traffic calming efforts. The proposal would have reduced the amount allocated in the recommended budget for transitional costs associated with the public art program from $80,000 to $40,000. The $40,000 in savings would be used for traffic calming projects in neighborhoods, including but not limited to speed bumps. [Eaton, Kailasapathy, Anglin]
1:35 a.m. Outcome: The council rejected this amendment on a 4-6 vote. It got support from Kailasapathy, Lumm, Eaton, and Anglin.
1:35 a.m. Budget amendment: Streets – Alt Transportation. The proposal will, for this year, bump the Act 51 allocation for alternative transportation from 2.5% to 5% – which translates to $180,000. The amendment would ask the city administrator to provide information that would help the council determine the appropriate percentage to allocate to alternative transportation in future years. [Briere]
1:39 a.m. Outcome: The council approved this amendment over the dissent of Kunselman.
1:40 a.m. Budget amendment: 415 W. Washington demolition. This proposal will simply eliminate general fund support for demolition of the city-owned buildings at 415 W. Washington. [Kailasapathy, Lumm, Eaton, Anglin]
1:54 a.m. Outcome: The council approved this amendment over the dissent of Kunselman, Taylor and Warpehoski.
1:55 a.m. Budget amendment: Dog licenses. This proposal encourages educational and enforcement efforts to increase the 7% compliance rate for dog licenses, which currently generates $15,000 in revenue. The resolution states that Ann Arbor is home to 30,000 dogs and that a 50% license compliance rate would result in $105,000 in revenue. But the resolution targets a 30% compliance rate for the shorter term, which would bring in a total of about $63,000. The resolution alters the revenue budget to reflect that amount. The resolution indicates that at least a portion of the additional $48,000 would go toward payment for animal services provided to the city by the Humane Society of Huron Valley. [Lumm]
2:12 a.m. Outcome: The council unanimously approved this amendment.
2:12 a.m. Budget amendment: Parks fairness. This is a standard amendment every year to ensure that the parks budget is increased to match any increase in general fund expenditures in other areas. This year, the parks budget needs to be increased by $23,577 as a result of the budget amendments that were previously approved.
2:15 a.m. Outcome: The council has approved this amendment over the sole dissent of Teall.
2:16 a.m. Main FY 2015 budget, as amended.
2:17 a.m. Outcome: The council voted unanimously to adopt the FY 2015 budget as amended.
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