Ann Arbor City Council Gets Budget Preview

Cuts to police, firefighting staff proposed, among others

At Monday night’s city council working session, city administrator Roger Fraser introduced a recommended budget for fiscal year 2010 (beginning July 2009)  of about $85 million, down from the almost $91 million budget in FY 2009. Declining revenues from property taxes, together with increasing contributions to the pension fund means that for FY 2010, the equivalent of 34 full-time positions at the city  would be eliminated, followed by 22 full-time positions in FY 2011. If implemented, the cuts would reduce the city workforce from 800 to 746 by 2011 – a number that has declined from a peak of 1,005 city workers in 2001.

A range of other recommendations include closing Mack pool for the summer, eliminating funding for the civic band and Project Grow, and increasing the water utility’s safety services fee by 4%.

The timeline for the budget’s adoption will include an April 14 town hall meeting at 7 p.m. at the CTN studios on South Industrial. That will be followed by public hearings on May 4, with council adopting a budget with any amendments on May 18. If council fails to act on the budget or to amend it by its second meeting in May, then per the city charter, the budget as submitted by the city administrator is automatically adopted.

The park advisory commission will hold a public hearing next Tuesday, April 21, on the recommendations related to parks, before voting on its recommendation.

The plan (not the budget per se) for FY 2011 will be adopted at the same time the FY 2010 budget is adopted. In that second year of the two-year plan, 14 firefighters, or the equivalent of one truck company, would make up the majority of the 22 eliminated positions. For this next year, 27 of the 34  positions proposed for elimination would come from law enforcement.

Fraser said that the intent was to avoid a scenario where demotions from lieutenant to sergeant and sergeant to patrol officer would take place, a situation where the newest, most enthusiastic recruits would be shed from the department. [The newest recruits are also the least highly compensated.] Instead, he said, the plan was to spend $4.8 million from the general fund reserve on an early-out retirement program. The reserve fund expenditure would bring the reserve down to 12%, putting it at the lower end of the recommended 12-15% range. Fraser said that 16-18 command officers might participate in the program, and that earlier in the day, the plan had received the support of the Ann Arbor Police Officer’s Association.

The materials provided to councilmembers on the mix of law enforcement positions to be eliminated were: 8 community standards, 6 command, 10 patrol, 1 dispatch, 2 clerical. However, Tom Crawford, chief financial officer for the city, said that the exact mix of those positions would depend on participation in the early-out program.

Fraser said that the reductions were possible because Barnett Jones, chief of safety services, had undertaken a restructuring of the police department to reduce the size of sergeant and lieutenant ranks to focus resources on patrol, with specialty patrols for housing and downtown areas covered by regular patrol officers. The reduction in community standards officers (who write parking tickets, among other things), would be facilitated by patrol officers supporting ticket enforcement.

Not discussed at the council working session was the potential dovetailing of reduced ticket enforcement resources on the city’s side, with the possible purchase of parking meter enforcement rights in the downtown area by the DDA – an idea that was floated at the last DDA board meeting by Rene Greff. Greff chairs the DDA board’s ad hoc committee formed to begin conversations about the parking agreement between the city and the DDA.

Councilmembers sought clarity on some of the more visible proposals for cuts, which would come in 2011, like the closing of the senior center and of Mack pool for the summer. Leigh Greden (Ward 3) and Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) were concerned about whether adequate planning had been done to provide for transitioning to other areas for people who use those services. Jayne Miller, director of community services, said that for the senior center such transitioning would be provided – including on an individual basis. For the pool, there needed to be communication with the Ann Arbor Public Schools system, said Miller, to offer the possibility that the pool might stay open with the schools shouldering a commensurate part of the cost.

Fraser followed up Miller’s point on the school system, saying that in the coming week he hoped to finally reach a written agreement on how to jointly operate recreational ball fields with the schools. He indicated that the city had been working hard over the last five years to achieve an equitable and mutually beneficial arrangement, not just for the ball fields. Fraser said that overtures to the schools by the city in other areas had not yet yielded results.

In response to a query by Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), Fraser discussed another area of cost-saving that has not yet yielded dramatic results: regional cooperation. Higgins asked about the overall strategy of collaboration with other government entities in light of some of the proposed cuts for 2011, which she described as “rather unpalatable.” Fraser drew an analogy of government entities to neighbors who live next door, who just choose to live differently – even when it makes sense to collaborate. Two examples of progress offered by Fraser in that category were the city-county data center consolidation and agreements with surrounding townships and the city of Ypsilanti for firefighting response along the corridor between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

Sandi Smith wanted to know what happened to the discussion of increasing revenues that council had had during its budget retreat in January. Otherwise put, where does the city stand with respect to the request for a city income tax study? Fraser said that the state of Michigan was providing income levels for the city of Ann Arbor, and that employers were providing data for  employees who work in Ann Arbor, but who live outside the city limits. By the end of April, Fraser said, the work should be completed by Plante & Moran, the firm tapped to do the study.

Based on some of the specific items identified for cuts, even relatively small savings opportunities were identified in the proposed budget. For example, city clerk Jackie Beaudry, whose office would permanently lose a now-vacant .60 full-time position, identified the publication of council’s agenda in the local newspaper as a move that could save $15,000 a year. Beaudry said after the work session that council would need to change its rules in order to realize the savings. In relevant part, the council rules read:

The approved agenda for all meetings of Council, including Work Sessions, shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the City no later than the Sunday prior to each meeting, except those meetings called less than six days prior to a meeting.

The slides from the presentation at the work session are available here in .pdf format. A binder with the detail of the proposed budget will be available on the second floor of the Larcom Building and at the public library. For members of the public who would like own a copy, the cost for reproduction (which includes charts in color) is $26.36.

The April 14 town hall meeting on the budget, which will be held at CTN studios at 2805 S. Industrial, starts at 7 p.m.

Below we’ve reproduced the budget numbers, followed by some highlights identified by city staff in each year.

Recommended Expenditure Budget
Fiscal Year Budget
                                Adopted     Recommended       Projected
                                   2009            2010            2011
General Fund Expenditures
Police                     $ 27,195,233    $ 26,057,095    $ 27,188,966
Fire                         13,928,987      14,176,119      13,516,759
AATA                          9,741,489       9,636,345       9,135,256
Parks Forestry & Operations   4,225,101       4,132,898       4,063,921
Parks & Recreation            3,844,838       3,718,788       3,511,483
Finance                       4,143,302       3,956,114       4,016,264
Courts                        4,507,684       4,226,107       4,357,693
Planning & Development        2,104,163       2,611,699       2,592,084
Community Development         2,076,980       2,428,699       1,950,666
Public Services               2,179,171       2,105,899       2,017,628
Fleet & Facilities            1,287,695       1,316,428       1,599,240
Attorney                      2,082,710       2,041,949       1,988,580
City Clerk                      924,882         885,960       1,039,966
City Administrator              639,695         634,034         607,334
Mayor & Council                 343,502         348,917         350,740
Transfers/Other              10,332,730       6,887,892       5,664,680
  Total GF Expenditures**  $ 89,214,660    $ 84,816,026    $ 83,250,520

General Fund Revenues
Taxes                      $ 52,076,573    $ 51,492,881    $ 48,993,217
State-shared Revenue         10,756,613      10,827,062      10,827,062
Charges for Services          5,866,021       7,333,170       7,704,717
Fines & Forfeitures           6,182,365       5,131,420       4,861,882
Other                        14,333,088      10,413,505      10,481,630
  Total GF Revenues        $ 89,214,660    $ 85,198,038    $ 82,868,508

Net Surplus/(Deficit)      $          0    $    382,012    $   (382,012) 

Undesignated Fund Balance  $ 13,515,463    $ 13,897,475    $ 13,515,463 

     ** Adopted Budget subsequently amended to $90,791,514


FY 2010 Ann Arbor City Budget Highlights

General Fund 2010


  • Reduction in size of sergeant and lieutenant ranks to focus resources on patrol
  • Specialty patrols (ie. housing, downtown, etc.) would be covered by regular patrol
  • Community standards reduced with existing patrol supporting ticket enforcement
  • Add a 3rd School Resource Officer / Reduce 1 Canine / Reduce vehicle fleet by 14
  • FTE positions reduced by 27 (8 community standards, 6 command, 10 patrol, 1 dispatch, 2 clerical)


  • Reduce non-FTE expenditures and overtime


  • Mack pool will close down for the summer (only)
  • Eliminate funding for Civic Band ($7k), Project Grow ($7k), & 1 GIS employee
  • Reduce hours at Vets Park Fitness Center ($9k) & expand teen camp pilot
  • Leslie Science Center becomes fully financially independent of the city ($31k)
  • Rental Housing Inspection Fees – 3% increase


  • Eliminate publication of council agenda in newspaper ($15k)
  • Reduce projected cost of employee compensation and benefits
  • Energy savings / Reduced maintenance for LEDs ($29k)
  • Service drive parking meter revenue, net of set-up costs ($380k)
  • 4% Safety Services Fee from water utility ($787k)
  • Loading zone permit fees & S. Industrial football parking revenue ($12k)
  • Reduce 4.6 FTEs – 1 in Treasury (vacant), 2 in Courts (vacant), 1 in HR, and 0.6 in Clerks (vacant)

Non-general Fund 2010

Act 51 Funds/Weight & Gas Tax (Funds Right-of-Way Maintenance Activities)

  • Anticipated revenue decrease [3% major roads, 5% local roads] ($345k)
  • Extend street sweeping cycle from 5 to 8 weeks ($148k)
  • Traffic calming reduction [50% or 1 program per yr.] ($28k)
  • Extend gravel road grading cycle from 6 to 8 weeks ($40k)
  • Reduction in overtime costs for snow removal ($65k)

Utility Funds (Water, Sanitary Sewer, Storm Water)

  • 3.6% increase in water revenue requirements
  • 1.6% increase in storm water revenue requirement
  • 3.1% increase in sanitary sewer revenue requirements
  • 4% Safety Service Fee to General Fund
  • Planting of 600 trees for storm water benefit ($300k)

Other (Constraints of Diminished Tax Revenue)

  • Reduction in Parks Maintenance & Capital Improvements Millage revenue by $65k
  • Reduction in Greenbelt Millage revenue by $26k
  • Reduction in Solid Waste Millage revenue by $135k

FY 2011 Ann Arbor City Budget Highlights

General Fund 2011


  • Reduce 14 FTEs in Fire ($1.1 mil.) – equivalent to 1 truck company


  • Reduce Human Services allocations by $260k
  • Eliminate Historic District contract ($24k)
  • Close or turn over Mack pool to AAPS ($59k)
  • Eliminate 30 hours per week of seasonal assistant facility supervisor ($12k)
  • Close senior center ($141k)
  • Reduce 2.5 FTEs (1 in Parks & Rec., 1 Support Specialist in Planning Development, & 0.5 Planner)
  • Rental Housing Inspection Fees – 3% increase


  • Eliminate contracted services for Park Ops. ($31k)
  • Include 8 months of utility charges for Court/PD building ($184k)
  • Reduce projected cost of employee compensation and benefits
  • Increase revenue or reduce 1 FTE in FASA (financial services)
  • Revenue: Service Dr. Parking Meter/Net of Maintenance Costs ($460k)
  • Revenue: Energy Savings/Maintenance from LED Installations ($12,323)
  • Expenditures: Energy Savings/Maintenance from LED Installations ($69,600)

Non-General Fund FY 2011

Utility Funds/Water, Sanitary Sewer, Storm Water


  • 3.49% increase in Water Revenue Requirements (Operation & Maintenance Budgets held constant to accommodate capital requirements)
  • 1.75% increase in Storm Water Revenue Requirement (Bonding for Capital Improvements)
  • 3% increase in Sanitary Sewer Revenue Requirements (Operation & Maintenance Budgets held constant to accommodate capital requirements)


  • 4% Safety Service Fee ($813,750)


  • Reduce 3 FTEs in Construction Code Fund – 2 development services inspectors (1 vacant) & 1 support specialist
  • Reduction in Parks Maintenance & Capital Improvements Millage revenue by $270k
  • Reduction in Greenbelt Millage revenue by $117k
  • Reduction in Solid Waste millage revenue by $607k


  1. By Kris
    April 14, 2009 at 9:43 am | permalink

    I’m wary of the decrease in coverage of Community Standards as there has already been a noticeable increase in blight due to temporary sign, slack maintenance of empty homes and delinquent snow removal. Allowing neighborhoods to fall into disrepair will further reduce property values and thus continue to lower the tax revenue base.

  2. April 14, 2009 at 10:18 am | permalink

    Nice piece of work, Dave. I don’t know how others feel, but having this kind of thing on the internet is far preferable to printing it on dead trees.

  3. By Susan
    April 14, 2009 at 11:16 am | permalink

    Employee morale at city hall must be at an all time low with this news.
    I worry about the quality of life here in Ann Arbor. I foresee city council making decisions based solely on their desperate need for revenue rather than good policy. A few bad “development” projects could irreparably alter downtown and surrounding neighborhoods (tearing down houses for projects that aren’t needed or that funding won’t ultimately be found for) because council will approve anything that looks like it might increase tax revenue, even when all signs point the other way. There are already towns all over Michigan blighted by gaping holes in the ground and/or empty buildings. Maybe the empty Ann Arbor News building across the street will help them keep that in mind. I hope our local officials are the right people to be leading us at this point in time. Right now, more than ever, decisions need to be made with wisdom and foresight. Proceed with great caution, people.

  4. By Dusty Lake
    April 14, 2009 at 2:28 pm | permalink

    Well, every local government in the state is in for it. We are lucky in one respect, the city’s problem is not nearly as deep as the county’s. The reorganization the city went through in advance of all this must be paying off. Seems like the UM take over of the Pfizer property is making things a whole lot more difficult. Kind of like having a major auto plant close in Lansing.

    There are tough choices to be made and we have the people we have in place. All of us will want this or that saved, whatever we think is most important but the council has to balance it all. They have kept A2 far ahead of other cities in Michigan so far. Let’s hope they can keep it up.

  5. April 14, 2009 at 3:19 pm | permalink

    The numbers would be a little more easily scanned if you would adopt the usual convention of having negative numbers shown with a parentheses and positive numbers without one. So for example, the 4% Safety Service fee is being paid by water utilities to the General Fund. The revenue to the GF should be shown as a positive $787,000 while the cost to the utility fund should be shown as a negative ($813,750). It is unclear why the two figures don’t match.

    I’m worried about the quality of life reductions. Less maintenance, reduced services, as Ann Arbor gets shabbier and more poorly served, yet we are continuing to build expensive projects. If we are truly trying to attract the “creative class” or the “talent” or whatever we are calling it today, we’ll have to hope they don’t notice how down at the heels we are becoming.

  6. By LauraB
    April 14, 2009 at 4:40 pm | permalink

    If you want to talk shabby how about the two maintenance centers the city replaced on Washington and N. Main. The city should have replaced these 30 years ago. Great places to have people work! Or how about the police in the basement for 40 years or the courts meeting in an empty storefront when the lease runs out at the county.

    The anti-everything crowd never offered a viable alternative to the police station/ courthouse that is going up.

    Besides, from everything I have been able to glean the bonds are largely paid by the rents the city save so there is a minimal if any effect on the operating budget.

    I for one would not want capital money spent on daily operations. Do that for long and you soon find out you have no funds at all and a big hole in the budget that requires drastic measures.

    The city problem is not nearly so bad as what the county faces. It is puzzling how so many people focus only on the city when, as someone said above, they are doing better the rest of cities in the state. The county has been building things too with more to come. As they should.

  7. By Dusty Lake
    April 14, 2009 at 4:50 pm | permalink

    Vivienne: Given everything that is going on with cities in Michigan and the fact that so far as I can tell from reading the Free Press, Detroit News and the occasional Grand Rapids Press, things are not good anywhere in the state; A2 seems to be doing OK. They are still winning quality of life awards and people I know, hear from, run into, read about etc. seem to feel that all things considered, a multi year recession in our state, etc, things are good in A2 compared to the rest of the state.

    I certainly understand that cuts have had to be made but the effect seems almost invisible. I am curious as to what services you see having been cut that affect life in the city? Could you be specific?

  8. April 15, 2009 at 7:17 am | permalink

    I think it is better for other Chronicle readers to weigh in on this quality of life question. I’ll be expounding at length on my new blog (click on my name here to reach it). As for the city hall, I’m tired of hearing that it pays for itself. It began with a huge chunk taken out of the fund balance and Council passed several budget amendments taking more out of the General Fund for specific related uses. The big DDA commitment probably will contribute to the coming parking rate increases. Maybe sometime I’ll have the energy to follow up and detail just how much financial damage has been done.

  9. By LauraB
    April 15, 2009 at 8:33 am | permalink

    Vivienne: I guess we will just have to disagree on the police station/court house. I believe it was essential to have a place for the courts and the police and the budget was well managed.

    I would note that the city’s fund balance is still healthy and the money spent for the down payment was saved for this type of capital improvement.

    I will look in on your blog.

  10. April 15, 2009 at 6:58 pm | permalink

    I know this is really, really minor, but I am saddened by the possible cuts to the Civic Band. I love those outdoor concerts! They are just, well, *nice* things to go to on Wednesday evenings.

  11. By ChuckL
    April 15, 2009 at 9:33 pm | permalink


    What would be wrong with having the police meet in an empty storefront–like the soon to be vacant Ann Arbor News building? The city needs to cut services because the city has been saving money to pay for the new PD/Courts building. I must admit, your ability to apologize for badly managed public resources seems to know no bounds; I’m really impressed. You agree that we should supply jobs to construction workers by firing city workers, good move! And of course, once the PD/Courts building is up and running, there will be increased capacity to issue more speeding/parking tickets to help pay for it all, good move! What’s next, an income tax? With an income tax, we can finance more white elephants, like the proposed underground parking structure next to the Library.

  12. April 15, 2009 at 9:59 pm | permalink

    I agree with TeacherPatti about the civic band (costs about $7,000) but I’m also really unhappy that the administration is once again trying to finish off Project Grow (another $7,000). Considering how much they spend on many huge projects, why nickel and dime these tiny contributions to the Ann Arbor community? There must be a few shavings here and there that could make up such puny differences. Administration is too interested in “efficiencies” and is ignoring real community values.

    BTW, the fund balance was never designated for capital projects, not officially at any rate. That was a conscious decision, to spend it on capital projects instead of maintaining services.

  13. By my two cents
    April 15, 2009 at 10:38 pm | permalink

    I don’t understand the logic in some of your thinking. The city does not have a responsibility to support community projects such as the civic band and project grow. These are luxury expenses that are fine when times are good, but times are far from good.

    The city does have a responsibility in supplying a police/courts building. Whether you agree or not on how much is spent or where the police or courts are actually situated, police/courts is still a main responsibility of the city. They must deal with this topic in some way.

    In this economy, project grow and civic band should not be funded in any way. Both groups should have their own fundraising campaigns so that they can survive. If they cannot raise the money, then that should tell you that people are not interested in supporting these projects.

    Many small expenses add up to large expenses. The first things to be cut from the budget should be the luxury expenses. The fact is there will not be enough money to go around in the future. No matter what we cut, some people will be upset; there is no getting around it. However, some things MUST be cut. The choices will be tough. Everything in life is not free.

    Think about what would be the first thing you would cut from your own budget if you lost 25% of your income. It would probably be the entertainment (luxury) expenses. No more restaurants, movies, theater, etc. But if your roof was leaking and you needed a new roof, you would finance (or pull money from your savings) the cost of the new roof because it was a necessary expense. The city works in the same fashion. One is a choice, the other is a responsibility.

  14. April 16, 2009 at 12:33 am | permalink

    “…I’m also really unhappy that the administration is once again trying to finish off Project Grow…”

    So much so that you assign a motivation to that recommendation, Vivienne?

    “If they cannot raise the money, then that should tell you that people are not interested in supporting these projects.”

    Keep in mind, MTC, that “people” have similar choices to make as the city does. “In this economy…, remember? That paragraph strains the logic you profess.

    For those of you who would like the city to not build another “expensive project”, namely the underground parking structure, the hole isn’t dug yet and the bonds haven’t even been sold. I suggest that the time spent complaining about the under-construction police/courts building would be better spent communicating to council about the structure.

    With regard to the proposed budget, I think Fraser and staff have done quite well to once again whittle away at the organization. Whether that’s the best approach in the long run remains to be seen. Clearly, that approach has about reached its limit. We need to give much more thought to what’s to come, and we need to do it soon.

    I actually would have preferred a more pessimistic view of the state shared revenues that are projected to remain unchanged through 2011. The drop in state sales tax revenue, combined with the likelihood of lower income tax revenue in this and coming years (due to lower population, higher unemployment, and falling wages), will require more cuts in revenue sharing with local governments. If they don’t happen in the next two years, the cuts will just be bigger when they’re eventually made. (The Great Depression lasted ten years. Michigan probably has another four years at least, maybe longer, before things turn around.) Budgeting now in anticipation of those cuts would be wiser than trusting the assurances from the state.

  15. By Dave Askins
    April 16, 2009 at 7:46 am | permalink

    Re: [14] and state shared revenues.

    Here’s a link to a .jpg of the slide showing the state shared revenues received historically by Ann Arbor with the projections.

  16. April 16, 2009 at 9:14 am | permalink

    So many points to respond to – so I’ll just do one right now. I agree that the drop in state shared revenue is quite a problem. It also means that we (cities) should have a new treaty with the state. When I was on the county board of commissioners, we were instructed by our legislative consultant, Kirk Profit, that the state shared revenue was put in as a substitute for many local tax options that are denied to Michigan municipalities. We are not able to use devices that cities or counties in other states can use to fine-tune our revenues to our special situation. I saw a call on Arbor Update to tax UM football tickets, for example. We aren’t permitted to do that, or to have a local sales tax, gas tax, or much of anything other than property and income taxes. The state was supposed to reimburse us for this with revenue-sharing, but that is not working out. Instead we are having “hidden taxes” as fees for service.

  17. By Patricia Lesko
    April 16, 2009 at 9:49 am | permalink

    The 2009 budget adopted by Council had a note from Roger Fraser is the comment section that anticipated a budget deficit this year. So, the fact that there is actually a deficit should come as no surprise to anyone, should it?

    I can appreciate the awards Ann Arbor earns from those on the outside looking in, but ultimately the point is to have a city that meets the needs and provides services to those who live here and pay taxes. I grew up in a town where the pools (indoor and outdoor) and ice rinks were free to residents. At the end of each school year, every kid in the city got a summer pool pass.

    In Birmingham, Michigan, the first two hours of parking in any city parking garage is free of charge (link to info on Birmingham).

    In Berkeley, California, in 2009 all four Downtown Development areas split a total $700,000 allocation in that city’s 2009 budget (link to Berkeley info). Berkeley spends 10 times as much as our city does on affordable housing initiatives, and their City Council sets yearly goals of constructing a certain number of units. In fact, spending for human services and youth, senior, and social programs in Berkeley’s budget puts ours to shame. Property taxes in Berkeley are lower than in Ann Arbor, yet their General Fund is significantly larger than ours. Their parks budget dwarfs ours, all on a yearly annual income of about $350 million dollars (less than Ann Arbor’s annual projected budget with its deficit).

    At the budget meeting, someone asked Roger Fraser if he had compared Ann Arbor’s situation to that of other communities. His answer was no—or rather to reply from personal experience. If his personal experience remains our only information for making comparisons, we’re being remiss in educating ourselves, and will accept cuts in services as inevitable. Instead of asking why the City Clerk’s budget has grown, for instance, we might ask why the budget for our own city administrator’s office is millions of dollars higher than that that of, say, the city administrator of Madison, Boulder, Berkeley, Austin and Cambridge.

    Our City Council members vote on each year’s budget without ever seeing actual figures from the previous year. Berkeley’s Council revises their city’s budget quarterly based on actuals. Perhaps rather than relying on predictions and projections, we might begin by requiring our elected officials to craft and vote on a budget only after we have all seen the actual expenses from the previous year.

  18. April 16, 2009 at 10:20 am | permalink

    I think MTC raises a valuable question – namely, what is our model for how we pay for services (mandated and otherwise), and what is the relationship of each individual to the government and the services provided by it. One might roughly say that there are two competing models – the fee-for-service, where we each pick from a cafeteria line and pay for the ones we want but not the other; and the pool-of-services, where we each pay for the entire range, including services that we may never use individually. The problem as I see it is that fee-for-service is regressive (based on ability to pay) and also restrictive (some services very important to a few or to the group as a whole but less important to many individuals will not be available at all). It sounds “fair” but is less advantageous from a societal benefit. Yet that is the model the city has been moving toward. Many of our basic services have been placed into enterprise funds, where the basket of services must pay for itself, plus send a hefty tax to the general fund. This places upward pressure on fees. Project Grow and the community band do not produce revenue, thus do not fit into this model, so are a drag on the parks fund. That is a motivation for getting rid of them, yet they each in their own way are important to defining us as a community. I never go to hear the concerts and I have my own vegetable garden, yet I am happy to pay taxes that others may come together in community to enjoy them.

  19. By Dave Askins
    April 16, 2009 at 10:32 am | permalink

    Re: [18] and picking from a cafeteria line. The phrasing reminded me of Ed Shaffran’s comments about the business development district that the DDA board recently voted to help support [earlier Chronicle piece]:

    “Shaffran said that the intent of property owners on Main Street was to provide assurance – by undertaking to assess themselves a higher property tax – that the kind of services they wanted would actually be provided into the future. Shaffran went on to speculate that this could be a pre-cursor of “a la carte government” as revenues to municipalities dwindled. He suggested that the concept of a BIZ could be extended to residential neighborhoods as well. The strategy for providing services, he said, could evolve to be a system where a minimum baseline level would be provided by government, with BIZ-like affiliations electing to augment (or not) that baseline level.”

  20. By my two cents
    April 16, 2009 at 11:40 am | permalink

    Vivienne, I am actually for the pool of services model. The question I raise is “what should be in that pool?” The pool should consist of things that are mandated by law (safety services, roads etc) with additional local community standards (A2 likes to maintain a lot of parks).

    However, this pool is subjective and there is a bottom to the list of required expenses (pool) where things are actually luxury items (band, project grow). In good times when we have additional funds the city can subsidize these additional community projects (band, project grow), but in bad times they need to be the first cut.

    No matter what is cut, whether it is salaries, FTE positions, project grow, someone will be unhappy. Council needs to weigh the cost savings of budget cuts against the loss of the item (effects on the number of residents, the business community, the safety of the residents, and culture of the area etc.).

    It will not be an easy task.

  21. April 16, 2009 at 11:57 am | permalink

    MTC, I guess where we differ is that I see the community gardens and band as “community standards”. (And that is not an exclusive list.) It has been too easy to cut those while maintaining many capital projects and administrative functions that are not mandated services, but rather discretionary expenditures. It would be very difficult to start such programs up again in good times if they are allowed to be terminated. Speaking of mandatory services, the cuts in police forces are starting to be noticeable, and I note that animal control is once again being cut. So we are not just talking about cutting “luxuries”.

  22. By my two cents
    April 16, 2009 at 12:45 pm | permalink

    Vivienne, that is exactly where we differ. Including that I think some of the capital projects that you are opposed to are actually nondiscretionary (necessary) expenditures.

    Leaving the police courts building out of the mix, what would you cut from the budget? Would you close another pool, a park? Things need to be cut for the future without harping on the past.

    It is easy to blame everything on the PD/courts building, but this is a done deal whether some like it or not. Canceling that project does nothing to help our budget (we would still need to pay rent somewhere else for the courts. The rent we pay now will be used to pay for the bond payments). The city has saved some money to be used for infrastructure improvements. It would irresponsible to move that money over to pay for something non-tangible like project grow when one of the cities main responsibilities is infrastructure.

  23. April 16, 2009 at 1:09 pm | permalink

    Funny how the threatened cuts in these kinds of discussions are always popular things like pools and parks. Without access to a detailed budget proposal it is of course difficult to pinpoint a cut. Past decisions are indicative of mindset and procedure issues so are worthwhile recalling. I was just reviewing the action for my blog whereby the council bought the building that houses Tios. It was an item added to the agenda at the last minute and they authorized over $600,000 from the general fund to buy the building so that it can be torn down for parking spaces. I don’t think such hugely expensive decisions should be made on the spur of the moment without a real cost/benefit calculation. The cost in this case was more than the monetary cost to the city – it virtually wiped out a local business (though they may survive if able to make their move successfully).

    If infrastructure is so important, why are we creaming off 1% of all capital projects for the “1% for Art” program? Money is even coming from water projects, in my opinion illegally. (They are paid for by user fees and are subject to the Bolt decision.) I can hear the howls now – of course art is important to our community. But if we are into making “hard choices” and eliminating “luxuries”, does that program justify itself in a time of contraction?

  24. By my two cents
    April 16, 2009 at 1:39 pm | permalink

    I actually did not intentionally imply to cut the pools or parks; I just listed them as possibilities without any hidden meaning.

    The art question is a tough one because many do not see the value that public art brings to a city. In my opinion the 1% for art program is actually a part of development not community services. If how our city looked did not matter, then we would be putting up gray, square, cinder block buildings that are cheaper to build. We like to have things look nice. Public art beautifies the area for EVERYONE, even those who may think it is unnecessary.

    In tough times public art projects may be delayed but should not be cancelled forever. Public art gives a city a large part of its character and impacts everyone who lives in and visits the city. Many other cities that have these programs have shown this. A small community service like project grow has minimal impact on the majority of residents and no impact on visitors.

    As for the Dreiseitl art project, we can only install it now, it cannot be installed later. It will not only be beautiful but also will be educational. These things need to be considered along with the dollar expenditures on whether we should go forward with this project. At this time, the council has only decided to look at a proposal for this. However, if the money is not spent on this project, my understanding is that it cannot be moved into another area.

    It is not as simple as saying “project Grow” or “public art”. In my eyes it is apple and oranges

  25. By Dave Askins
    April 16, 2009 at 2:02 pm | permalink

    Re: [23] Thanks, Vivienne, for forwarding a breakdown of Percent for Art funding for FY 08 and FY 09. I’ve uploaded them and provided links here.

    FY 08 Percent for Art Funding

    FY 09 Percent for Art Funding

  26. April 16, 2009 at 3:24 pm | permalink

    MTC, “We like to have things look nice”? This is quite a back-down from that principled stand on cutting inessentials you were taking earlier. Note, I wasn’t referencing the Dreiseitl art project but the general program. I was merely pointing out the inconsistencies in your “tough choices for tough times” argument. I haven’t even tried to lay out all the arguments for Project Grow (and there are many) but your reasoning in approving the one and disallowing the other is specious. How are you to judge what fraction of the (resident) population will benefit from each of these projects? And some sense of proportion is called for here – $7,000 (Project Grow) vs. millions for the art set-aside.

    Your differentiation of the art program as being “development” rather than “services” and therefore somehow more defensible is revealing of your real priorities. Is your real meaning that Project Grow doesn’t benefit the right class of people?

    BTW, I’m sure that the architects in the community will be startled to learn that without public art projects we will be putting up Soviet-style cinderblock buildings. Again, a false dichotomy.

  27. By my two cents
    April 16, 2009 at 3:45 pm | permalink

    Oh please, don’t make this into a class thing. By your argument only rich people like art which is ridiculous. What I am referring to is the number of people that use or benefit from a particular project. Project grow does not service that many people, that is where my argument is.

    The cinder block comment was in relation to the design of buildings not to your inference that without the art we would have these block buildings. The fact is that most people prefer a nice looking city: beautifully designed buildings, public art, nice parks, and historical buildings. The character of a city is based on these things.

    Like I said before the art program is a tough call because many think of it is non-essential when it is actually needed in my opinion.

  28. By Alan Goldsmith
    April 19, 2009 at 6:44 am | permalink

    “In response to a query by Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), Fraser discussed another area of cost-saving that has not yet yielded dramatic results: regional cooperation. Higgins asked about the overall strategy of collaboration with other government entities in light of some of the proposed cuts for 2011, which she described as “rather unpalatable.””

    Higgins has been on council for ten years and now she brings up ‘regional cooperation’. Wow…thanks for going out on a political limb.

  29. April 26, 2009 at 3:23 pm | permalink

    I was challenged earlier to support my statement that our town is getting down-at-the-heel because of service cuts.

    Here is an example. Our street trees are no longer being maintained at almost any level whatsoever. We used to have them pruned, removed, and replaced free of charge by an experienced and knowledgeable forestry department. The “urban forest” that is planted along lawn extensions is a recognized part of a city’s living infrastructure. What I have noticed lately on my street is that branches of street trees are dying, falling, and landowners are simply tossing them either into the street or along the extension. (It is costly or difficult to cut them up and dispose of them if you don’t have the right equipment.)

    Also, the leaf pickup was so early last year that many people in my neighborhood were left with piles of leaves along their extensions. Some of these have fallen into the gutter and been carried to the storm drains, where they have clogged the drain openings. Not too long ago this would have been taken care of by the city spring street sweeping program. My neighbor called and was told that they do not have the personnel to perform this service now. Our streets have not been swept yet and the result is a ragged look, with clogged storm drains.

  30. By Ted Ancil
    April 27, 2009 at 10:07 am | permalink

    So the state has been in recession for years, the state and feds have cut funding to the city, the UM keeps grabbing property and 40% of the city is already off the tax roles and they picked up the leaves too early.

    Well if they wait for all the leaves to fall then winter comes. Climate change anyone?

    In my neighborhood this was exactly what happened, same the year before. The leaves finally fell but really late. Six inches of snow covered them then ice froze them to the ground. This city should go to bagging anyway and forget the pickup.

    And the tree trimming? I wrote the city about that. They had to spend 3 years taking down ash trees and did not have the ability to do anything else. Now they are trying to catch up. Makes sense to me. They only had to deal with 10,000 trees.

    Give-em-a-brake, this is the worst funding crisis for governments in 70 years and people are worried about their leaf pickup.

    Street sweeping. They did that on our street already, it is actually kind of early this year. Many April’s still have snow coming down.