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.
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.