Stories indexed with the term ‘leaf collection’

Budget Debate Preview: Cops, Leaves

The main item on the Ann Arbor city council’s May 19, 2014 agenda is the adoption of the budget for the 2015 fiscal year, which starts on July 1, 2014.

Ann Arbor city administrator Steve Powers at the council's May 12, 2014 working session. He presented his recommended FY 2015 budget to the council in April. The council can amend that budget on May 19.

Ann Arbor city administrator Steve Powers at the council’s May 12, 2014 working session. He presented his recommended FY 2015 budget to the council in April. The council can amend that budget on May 19.

Under the city charter, the council needs to adopt the budget, with any amendments, on a seven-vote majority. If the council is not able to achieve a seven-vote majority on an amended budget, then under the city charter, the city administrator’s proposed FY 2015 budget will be adopted by default.

At the conclusion of a May 12 city council work session, Tom Crawford, the city’s chief financial officer, reminded councilmembers of the constraints they were working under when considering budget amendments. The forecast for fiscal year 2014, he told the council, is that about $1.5 million in the fund balance reserve will be used – which compares to the budgeted use of about $2.8 million of fund balance.

But Crawford cautioned that the unspent budgeted amount likely reflected a delay in that spending, not an actual savings. Crawford expected that the fund balance reserve at the end of FY 2014 would be about 10% of operating expenses.

The proposed FY 2015 budget would use $2.8 million in fund balance, Crawford told the council, which would take the fund balance down to the 7-9% range. That’s the bottom of the minimum 8-12% range that has been the council’s policy. “I say all that because I want to remind you that you’re entering a budget deliberation with pretty tight constraints,” Crawford said. So Crawford encouraged the council to find offsets to any additional expenses they wanted to incur – whether those were recurring or non-recurring expenses.

Councilmembers were asked to submit drafts of their proposed amendments to staff by the close of business on Thursday so that staff could assist in crafting the amendments. This report includes some additional background on what’s in the budget, as well as a description of 17 possible budget amendments that might be proposed.

Detail is provided on amendments in three areas: police staffing, leaf/compost collection and the local development finance authority (LDFA).
[Full Story]

Ann Arbor Rents Leaf Trucks

Eight rear-loading trucks will be rented by the city of Ann Arbor from Premier Truck Sales & Rental Inc. for the fall leaf collection season. The city council took action to allocate $117,200 for the rental at its Sept. 16, 2013 meeting.

leaf truck in action

A leaf truck rented from Premier Truck Sales & Rental in action back in 2011 on the Old West Side in Ann Arbor.

The truck rental is an annual approval. The trucks are being rented in order to handle the increased volume of yard waste during the fall season. Based on the staff memo accompanying the resolution, the city has a … [Full Story]

Sept. 16, 2013 Ann Arbor Council: Final

The second Ann Arbor city council meeting of the month, set for Sept. 16 19, 2013, comes after three home football games have been played by the University of Michigan football team.

New sign on door to Ann Arbor city council chamber

The sign on the door to the Ann Arbor city council chamber, installed in the summer of 2013, includes Braille.

That’s actually pertinent to the council’s work – because Ann Arbor chief of police John Seto has a spot on the meeting agenda to provide an update about the implementation of new traffic control measures on home game days. This year for the first time, the council gave approval for street closures around the Michigan Stadium in the hours before kickoff through the end of the game.

The council’s 7-4 vote approving the street closures was taken on Aug. 8, 2013. No council action on the issue appears on the Sept. 16 meeting agenda. However, the council’s approval had included a request for a review after the first three games, which featured three different start times.

The council’s Sept. 16 meeting includes two other items on which it has previously punted a number of times: final approval of revisions to the ordinance regulating the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s tax increment finance (TIF) capture; and revisions to the council’s internal rules. The council’s Sept. 3 meeting was planned to be the session when the council would tackle those two issues. However, the necessary committee work had not been completed by that time.

A joint committee composed of DDA board members and councilmembers huddled up for a second time on Sept. 10, 2013. And based on that meeting, it’s somewhat unlikely that the council would use its Sept. 16 meeting to take a simple yes-no vote on the ordinance revisions currently in play, which had already been given initial approval back on April 1. Those revisions would enforce the existing language of the ordinance in a way that has an impact on the DDA’s TIF revenue roughly matching the DDA’s projected revenues in its 10-year planning document.

The consensus at the Sept. 10 joint committee meeting appeared to be that the council should give itself a fresh set of downs on the question – by changing the basic conceptual approach to limiting the DDA’s TIF. That approach would impose a cap on TIF revenues with a built-in increase each year. But it’s not clear that a substitute set of changes would be ready for the council to consider at its Sept. 16 meeting.

Starting with a fresh draft of ordinance revisions would mean that the council would again need to give the changes an initial approval, followed by a second vote at a later meeting. The fresh start could also eliminate changes to the governance of the DDA board that had been included in the original revisions initially approved by the council on April 1. Those included term limits for DDA board members.

Among the options in the council’s parliamentary playbook are: tabling, postponing indefinitely, or postponing the DDA ordinance revisions until a date certain. If the council amends the proposal with a substitute proposal, postponement to a date certain would be more likely. However, the council could also choose to vote down the current proposal and leave the committee to come back with a future recommendation.

The council’s rules committee also met on Sept. 10, 2013. Based on discussion at that meeting, the consensus appeared to be that no shortening of speaking turns for the public or for councilmembers should be undertaken, and that the procedure for reserving public commentary time at the start of the meetings should not be altered. Among the substantive changes that survived the committee’s conversation are: adding public commentary to work sessions; changing the order of the agenda to move nominations and appointments to boards and commissions to earlier in the meeting; and prohibiting the use of personal electronic communications devices while at the council table.

The council’s agenda is otherwise fairly light. It includes an expansion of the Honda testing facility on north of Ellsworth on Research Park Drive, formal acceptance of the final report from the North Main Huron River task force, and a $117,200 expenditure for the rental of rear-loading trucks to supplement the city’s fleet during the fall leaf collection season.

Update: An item to reconsider the fossil fuel resolution that failed to pass at the council’s Sept. 3 meeting was added to the agenda on the morning of Sept. 16. The original resolution called on the city’s employee retirement system to divest from fossil fuel companies – but it failed on a 5-4 vote, with two councilmembers absent. Six votes were needed to pass. The motion to reconsider is sponsored on the agenda by Margie Teall (Ward 4).

More detail on other meeting agenda items is available on the city’s Legistar system. Readers can also follow the live meeting proceedings on Channel 16, streamed online by Community Television Network. The Chronicle will be filing live updates from city council chambers during the meeting, published in this article “below the fold.” The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. [Full Story]

Details on FY 2014 Budget Debate

Ann Arbor city council meeting Part 1: Budget debate (May 20, 2013): The council’s meeting did not conclude until nearly 2 a.m. after a 7 p.m. scheduled start. This portion of The Chronicle’s meeting report focuses mostly on the council’s fiscal year 2014 budget deliberations, which started at about 9 p.m. and ended around 1:30 a.m.

From left: Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3). Budget deliberations pushed the meeting until nearly 2 a.m.

From left: Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3). Budget deliberations pushed the meeting until nearly 2 a.m.

The council considered several amendments to the FY 2014 budget. But the total impact on the general fund of all the successful amendments was not significant, leaving mostly intact the “status quo” budget that had been proposed by city administrator Steve Powers a month earlier. That was a budget with $82.9 million in general fund expenditures. [.pdf of one-page summary of possible amendments] [.pdf of longer detail on FY 2014 budget amendments]

Most of the successful amendments were voted through with relatively little debate, and involved amounts of $100,000 or less. For example, the Washtenaw Health Initiative received an additional $10,000 allocation, and the Miller Manor senior meals program received a $4,500 boost. Allocations to human services nonprofits were increased by $46,899. And the general fund balance was tapped to conduct a $75,000 study of sidewalk gaps so that projects could be prioritized.

The affordable housing trust fund received an infusion of $100,000 from the general fund reserve. The council also approved an amendment prohibiting the spending of $326,464 that was set aside in the FY 2014 budget for public art, in anticipation of a final affirmative vote on a change to the public art ordinance. A vote on amending that ordinance is likely to take place on June 3, before the fiscal year begins on July 1.

The “parks fairness” amendment, which came after deliberations on all other amendments, was a straightforward calculation in accordance with a city policy. The policy requires that any increase in general fund spending be matched by a parallel increase for parks. The council approved that $22,977 amendment with scant remark.

Just three issues took about 80% of the council’s roughly 4.5-hour budget deliberations: (1) the budget of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, (2)  the possible reduction of the 15th District Court budget in order to pay for three additional police officers, and (3) the proposed restoration of loose leaf collection in the fall.

Of the most time-consuming items, the change to the DDA’s budget was ultimately approved – after escalating political rhetoric led to a kind of compromise that had almost unanimous support. The DDA compromise budget amendment called for a $300,000 transfer from the DDA’s TIF (tax increment finance) fund to the DDA’s housing fund, and a recommendation to spend $300,000 of TIF money on the replacement of Main Street light poles. Only Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) dissented.

The lone dissenting vote on the budget as a whole was Jane Lumm (Ward 2), who issued a verbal spanking of her colleagues and the city administrator – for proposing and approving a budget she did not feel reflected a priority on public safety. Countering Lumm was Taylor, who pointed out that roughly half of the general fund expenditures are related to public safety. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor City Council OKs FY 2013 Budget

At its May 21, 2012 meeting, which adjourned around 1:30 a.m., the Ann Arbor city council approved the city’s fiscal year 2013 budget, for the period from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013. As required by the city charter, the budget had been proposed by city administrator Steve Powers a month earlier on April 16.


In the couple of weeks leading up to the May 21, 2012 meeting, councilmembers had their hands literally full with the FY 2013 budget. (Photo by the writer, taken on May 18.)

The amendments approved by the council included modifications that added a secretary position to the 15th District Court, increased human services funding by $46,899, added $78,000 to the Ann Arbor Housing Commission budget, and eliminated a contract with RecycleBank to administer a coupon program to encourage residents to recycle.

One resolution – which did not actually modify the budget – simply directed the city administrator to bring a future mid-year budget amendment to add up to six firefighters to the budget – if a federal grant and increased state fire protection allocations materialize.

Amendments that were brought forward, but that did not win council approval, included a proposal to leave money in various city funds, totaling $307,299, instead of transferring that amount to the public art fund. Also failing to win approval was an amendment that would give a specific interpretation to the city’s downtown development authority tax increment finance (TIF) capture ordinance – that would have benefited the city’s general fund by around $200,000. Both of those amendments were brought forward by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

Another amendment that failed would have restored loose leaf collection service in the fall, as well as holiday tree pickup. And an amendment to fund additional police officers also did not succeed. Both of those amendments were proposed by Jane Lumm (Ward 2). Lumm was joined by Mike Anglin (Ward 5) in dissenting on the final budget vote.

The total expenditure budget for FY 2013 as proposed – across all funds, including utilities, solid waste and the like – came to $404,900,312 in revenues against $382,172,603 in expenses.

The originally proposed budget for the much smaller general fund – out of which the city pays for services like fire and police, planning, financial services, administration, parks and recreation – showed $79,193,112 in revenues against expenses totaling $78,869,750 for a planned surplus of $323,362. The following year, FY 2014, had been projected to be basically a break-even year.

The cumulative impact of the amendments approved by the council on Monday night increased expenditures to $79,070,842 against revenues of $79,193,112, for a surplus of $122,270. Below is a detailed list of proposed amendments and outcomes. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Dems Primary: Ward 4 Council

On Tuesday evening, the Ward 4 Democratic Party hosted a forum at Dicken Elementary School so that residents could pose questions to primary candidates for one of the ward’s two city council seats. Margie Teall, the incumbent who has held the seat since 2002, and Jack Eaton, who has been active in politics on the neighborhood level, answered questions for a bit more than an hour.


Jack Eaton and Margie Teall, candidates for the Ward 4 city council seat, engage in the subtleties of negotiation over who would deliver their opening remarks first. (Photos by the writer.)

City council representatives are elected for two-year terms and each of the city’s five wards has two seats on the council, one of which is elected each year. Also in attendance at Tuesday’s forum was Marcia Higgins, the Ward 4 council representative who won re-election in November 2009, defeating independent challenger Hatim Elhady.

Besides Higgins, other elected officials and candidates for office who were introduced at the forum included: LuAnne Bullington (candidate for the 11th District county board of commissioners seat), Ned Staebler (candidate for the 53rd District state Representative seat), Leah Gunn (county commissioner representing the 9th District of the county and seeking re-election), Patricia Lesko (candidate for Ann Arbor mayor). All the candidates are Democrats.

Eaton’s main theme was a need to focus more on infrastructure – those things we need, not the things that might be nice to have. Eaton was keen to establish that his candidacy was not meant as a personal attack on Teall, saying that he expected his supporters to focus on the issues and to conduct themselves in a civil way. His opening remarks were heavy on thanks and appreciation for Teall’s long service on council, particularly with regard to the creation of Dicken Woods, which is now a city-owned nature area.

In the course of the forum, a pointed question to Teall on her biggest regret while serving on the council elicited an acknowledgment from her that she regretted her contribution to the problem last year with city councilmembers emailing each other during council meetings. Eaton was quick to give Teall credit for publicly apologizing in a timely way for her role in the scandal.

For her part, Teall focused on setting forth accomplishments while serving on the council. Those ranged from the longer-term budgeting strategies that she said had helped ensure that Ann Arbor was weathering the economic crisis better than other Michigan cities, to the budget amendment she introduced and the council passed in May, which proposed using $2 million from the Downtown Development Authority, plus more optimistic estimates for state revenue sharing, to eliminate the need to lay off some police and firefighters.

The candidates exchanged different views on basic infrastructure issues like the Stadium Boulevard bridges and stormwater management, to single-stream recycling and leaf collection, to Georgetown Mall, and the transparency of government. [Full Story]

Budget Round 4: Lights, Streets, Grass

On March 8, the Ann Arbor city council held its fourth meeting since the start of the calendar year devoted to deliberations on the budget for FY 2011, which begins July 1, 2010. The council will make its final budget decision in mid-May after receiving a budget proposal from city administrator Roger Fraser in mid-April.

Sue McCormick

Sue McCormick, the city's public services area administrator, showed the city council a map of streetlights during Monday's meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

On Monday, Sue McCormick, public services area administrator, was front and center, describing for council how the public services budget “lives within the general fund.” The basis for the discussion was budget impact sheets prepared for the public services area, which she distributed.

Councilmembers had several questions for her about a possible special assessment district (SAD) to fund streetlighting, with much of the discussion centered around what it means for an area to be “overlit.” A streetlighting SAD would require property owners to pay for streetlights.

Also generating a fair amount of discussion among councilmembers was the $100,000 annual cost for traffic control on University of Michigan football game days and the city’s plan to reduce that cost through judicious rescheduling of personnel to avoid overtime expenses.

McCormick also pitched to the council the idea of relaxing the constraints of the “box” defining how the parks maintenance and capital improvements millage is administered. The proposal would have the council rescind the part of a previous resolution that requires millage funding for natural area preservation to increase by 3% every year. That savings, McCormick said, could be put towards hand-trimming of grass in the parks. Reduction of hand-trimming, she said, would have a negative visual impact on the parks – they’ll look “fuzzy.”

Also related to yard-waste type issues, McCormick briefed the council on the idea of eliminating collection of loose leaves in the fall, and moving to an approach requiring leaves to be put into containers. She also told them about  a proposal that would be coming before them in the next 30 days to transition the city’s composting facility to a merchant operation, similar to the city’s materials recovery facility (MRF) for recyclables. That proposal was met with strong criticism from Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

Councilmembers also heard from McCormick that residents will face a 3.88% increase in water rates, unless council directs that more budget cuts be made.

Towards the end of the meeting, city administrator Roger Fraser warned that accounting services manager Karen Lancaster and chief financial officer Tom Crawford would put them to sleep with an explication of how the city’s municipal service charge (MSC) works. However, Lancaster and Crawford were unable to make good on Fraser’s threat. [Full Story]