Stories indexed with the term ‘budget’

DDA OKs $300K for Main Street Light Poles

Some rusted-out decorative light poles on Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor can be replaced as a result of a $300,000 allocation made by the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. The total estimated cost of the project is $516,000 for 81 light poles.

Downtown Ann Arbor Main Street light pole

Downtown Ann Arbor Main Street light pole on northeast corner of Main & William. Photograph is from the city of Ann Arbor, taken April 2012.

Based on the DDA board’s resolution, it’s the DDA’s expectation that the city of Ann Arbor will make up the difference of $216,000. The board’s action came at its July 3, 2013 meeting.

Responding to … [Full Story]

AAPS Trustees Get Draft FY 2013-14 Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education study session and regular meeting (April 24, 2013): As the main event of the meeting, AAPS administration unveiled its proposed budget to the board. Director of finance Nancy Hoover gave a presentation on district expenditures, then walked the board through proposed cuts of $8,689,293.

Tappan Middle School orchestra students performed for the board.

Tappan Middle School orchestra students performed for the board.

Four community dialogue meetings the board held regarding the budget were summarized by board president Deb Mexicotte and treasurer Glenn Nelson. The trustees will be working to divide some of the suggestions they heard from the public into short-, mid-, and long-term action items.

The board also met during a study session before the regular meeting to address some of the most pressing needs of the superintendent search: identifying a salary, determining a superintendent profile, confirming the superintendent search timeline, and approving an advertising schedule.

The trustees hope to have a candidate in place by the end of July. They decided on a salary range of $180,000 to $220,000, commensurate with experience.

Also at the meeting, Mexicotte made standing committee appointments. The trustees recently moved away from a committee-of-the-whole structure to planning, performance, governance, and executive committees.

Additionally, the board heard first briefings on paving contracts, tech bond purchases, and the Freeman School lease renewal. Trustees voted to approve the 2013 spring grant awards. [Full Story]

Community Meetings Set for AAPS Budget

The Ann Arbor Public School (AAPS) board of education has released dates for community dialogue meetings on the budget for fiscal year 2014. In a release from the district, the trustees indicated they would like community input to develop the principles they should follow in making cuts and strategies to lessen the need for such cuts in the future. The district must cut $17 to 20 million from the general operating budget in the coming year.

The budget dialogue meetings will be structured differently from the forums that have been held in previous years – to allow for more open conversation. Several board members will be in attendance at each meeting to engage in conversation with the community. Conversation topics will depend … [Full Story]

Rounds 4, 5 FY 2014: Priorities, Reality

Over the last month, the Ann Arbor city council has been using a series of working sessions to deliberate toward a final budget decision in late May. That’s when the council will need to adopt the city administrator’s proposed fiscal year 2014 budget, or make adjustments and adopt an amended budget. The city administrator’s proposed budget is due by April 15 – the council’s second meeting in April.

City of Ann Arbor Two Year Outlook

Chart 1: City of Ann Arbor two-year outlook for the general fund. The black bar represents recurring revenue. The stacked bars represent expenses. From the bottom up, those expenses are: existing recurring expenses (light red), requests for new recurring expenses (dark red), one-time requests (light blue), and capital improvement plan needs (dark blue). There also could be additional expenses needed to meet the city council’s priority goals.

The most recent of those work sessions took place on March 11, 2013. The agenda focused on the city council’s top priorities, as identified at its planning retreat late last year: (1) city budget and fiscal discipline; (2) public safety; and (3) infrastructure. Two additional areas were drawn from a raft of other possible issues as those to which the council wanted to devote time and energy over the next two years: (4) economic development; and (5) affordable housing. The retreat had resulted in a consensus on “problem” and “success” statements in these areas – answering the questions: (1) What is the problem we are solving? and (2) What does success look like?

The priority-focused March 11 work session followed one held on Feb. 25, which mapped out the financial picture for the next two years fund-by-fund – not just the general fund, but also the various utility funds (water, sanitary sewer, stormwater, and streets) and internal service funds (fleet, and IT). But on March 11, the council’s focus was primarily on the general fund – as deliberations centered on the first two priority items: fiscal discipline and public safety.

The Feb. 25 session had provided the council with a sketch of the basic general fund picture for the next two years, which is better than it has been for the last several years. Based on current levels for all services, recurring revenues for the two years are projected to exceed recurring expenses by a total of $1.44 million in a general fund budget of about $82 million each year.

That doesn’t factor in requests from various departments that would result in additional recurring expenses, totaling $1.17 million for the two years – which would leave a surplus of just $265,000. When further requests from departments are considered that would result in one-time expenses, that two-year surplus would flip to a deficit of about $252,00. And if all as-yet-unfunded capital improvement expenses are added in for the two years, the city would be looking at a two-year general fund deficit of $4.41 million.

The general fund’s uncommitted balance could cover that deficit – but it would leave the uncommitted balance at $9.69 million at the end of FY 2015, or 11.5% of operating expenses. Under city policy, the uncommitted general fund balance should be between 8% and 12%. However, Tom Crawford, the city’s chief financial officer, has recommended that the city strive for 15-20%.

None of those numbers factor in any additional resources that could be required to achieve success measured in terms of the city council’s priority goals.

At the March 11 session, discussion by councilmembers of the first two priority items – fiscal discipline and public safety – revealed some unsurprising philosophical differences in approach. The majority of councilmembers seemed to accept city administrator Steve Powers’ inclination to take FY 2014 as a “breather” year, not asking departments to meet reduction targets this year, after several years of cuts. But Jane Lumm (Ward 2) – who previously served as a Republican on the council in the mid 1990s, and was elected as an independent in 2011 – expressed disappointed with this approach. She wants reduction targets every year.

And Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), who was elected in November 2012, challenged the idea that it’s only new councilmembers who need to learn during the budget process. She pointed out that city staff members also have a learning curve – as they shift the organization’s priorities to the new council’s priorities.

For public safety, a consensus seemed to emerge that the council’s planning retreat success statements about policing might need further refinement – in light of the current department’s configuration. Police chief John Seto characterized that configuration as set up to be reactive, not proactive. Current staffing levels don’t allow for a proactive configuration, he indicated.

But the council did not appear to have a complete consensus about the importance of that proactive capability – unless that capability could be linked to success in making the community be safe and feel safe. Measuring perceptions of safety through the National Citizens Survey – for the first time since 2008 – was an idea that seemed to have some traction on the council. Some sentiment was expressed that the number of police officers should be increased – whether or not that increase could be tied to better safety as defined in adopted city council goals.

For the fire protection side of public safety, councilmembers effectively made a decision – without voting – to give clear direction to fire chief Chuck Hubbard that they didn’t want to see his three-station plan implemented. He had first presented the plan about a year ago. The proposal would close three stations but re-open one, for a net reduction from five to three stations.

Some dissent was offered, but mayor John Hieftje indicated that in his view the three-station plan was dead. Still, councilmembers seemed unenthusiastic about an alternative – which would entail hiring an additional 23 firefighters to staff existing stations. They seemed more inclined toward incremental improvements in fire safety. Those improvements might be gained through community education. Another possibility is deployment of some light rescue vehicles, which would require a crew of just two, instead of water-carrying trucks that need a crew of three.

This report focuses exclusively on the top council priorities of budget discipline and public safety. Also discussed at the working session, but not included in this report, were draft work plans for the other three priority areas: infrastructure, economic development and affordable housing.

The council may schedule an additional work session on March 25 to give city administrator Steve Powers more direction as he shapes the final budget that he’ll submit to the council in April. [Full Story]

DDA Preps Budget for Transportation, Cops

The Jan. 25, 2013 meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s operations committee featured a preview of budgets for the fiscal years 2014 and 2015. For FY 2014, the DDA budget calls for $23.1 million in expenditures against $23.4 million in revenues. That would add about $300,000 to the total fund balance reserve, which is projected to end FY 2014 fiscal at around $5.5 million.

City Apartments under construction. (View is at First & Washington looking east) The bottom two floors are a parking deck, which is on track to be turned  over to the city and the DDA  on March 15, 2013.

City Apartments, a Village Green residential property under construction on Feb. 4, 2013. (View is at First & Washington looking east) The bottom two floors are a parking deck, which is on track to be turned over to the city and the DDA on March 15, 2013. It will expand the capacity of the public parking system by almost 100 spaces. (Photo by the writer.)

The surplus from FY 2014 would be used in the FY 2015 budget, which calls for $23.8 million in expenditures against $23.5 in revenues, leaving the DDA with about $5.2 million in total fund balance reserve at the end of FY 2015.

DDA revenues come from two main sources – tax increment finance (TIF) capture and Ann Arbor’s public parking system.

Besides operation and capital maintenance of the parking system, revenues to the public parking system are used by the DDA to support the getDowntown program’s go!pass subsidy. So one focus of the Jan. 25 DDA operations committee meeting was budgeting for that program. The go!pass is a bus pass that downtown employees obtain through their employers, who pay $10 annually for passes for each of their employees. In a presentation made to the operations committee, Michael Ford – CEO of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority – requested a total of $623,662 to support the getDowntown program, including the go!pass subsidy. That compares with $553,488 granted by the DDA last year. For FY 2014, the DDA’s draft budget calls for a $600,000 allocation that could cover most of that request.

This year’s draft budget also calls for $250,000 in parking revenue to be spent on a possible arrangement with the city of Ann Arbor to pay for additional downtown police patrols. Based on the conversation at the operations committee meeting, it’s not a topic on which any recent detailed talks have taken place. But DDA executive director Susan Pollay indicated a strong interest in having those conversations with the city. If that didn’t lead to an agreement with the city, she said, then the DDA board was certainly not obligated to spend the money in that way.

Another $300,000 in the FY 2014 budget that could be used somewhat flexibly is in the TIF fund budget, labeled “capital construction.” It could be used to fund sidewalk improvements between William and Liberty along State Street to facilitate patio dining for restaurants along that strip – or streetscape improvements for William Street, or even alley improvements near the Bell Tower Hotel, Pollay told the committee.

The full DDA board will be asked to approve the FY 2014 and FY 215 budgets at its Feb. 6 meeting. The DDA’s fiscal year is in sync with the city of Ann Arbor’s fiscal year, which begins on July 1. The city council will settle the city’s FY 2014 budget by May 20 – the council’s second meeting in May. While the city uses a two-year planning cycle – which begins fresh this year – the council approves its budget just one year at a time. [.pdf of draft DDA budgets FY 2014-15] [.pdf of FY 2013 six-month financial statements] [.pdf of monthly parking reports] [Full Story]

AAPS Sets Stage for Budget Talks

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education committee of the whole meeting (Dec. 12, 2012): Faced with another looming budget deficit, the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) school board used their committee of the whole meeting to review a list of potential budget reductions.  The board tried to get a handle on the estimated savings that each reduction would bring the district.

Ann Arbor Public School trustees, Glenn Nelson and Susan Baskett

Ann Arbor Public Schools trustees Glenn Nelson and Susan Baskett. (Photo by the writer.)

AAPS superintendent Patricia Green stressed that the list brought by administration for review was in no way a list of recommendations – it was just a list of savings estimates, which trustees had requested at a previous meeting. The estimates totaled nearly $26 million in potential reductions. They included: reducing teaching staff; reorganizing human resources; eliminating funding for some extracurricular activities; and closing buildings.

As part of the budget discussion, trustees also reviewed their plans to begin a series of one-on-one and small group meetings with key community leaders, school groups, and other partners. Trustee Glenn Nelson described the plans as first sharing information about the funding situation currently faced by AAPS, and then engaging in an open discussion with a lot of listening. Trustees then plan to bring back the information gleaned from their discussions, and use it, as trustee Andy Thomas put it, “to put together a message and a campaign on how to keep these schools excellent – a message that will resonate with people … and will respond to their hopes and their fears.”

The bulk of the Dec. 12 meeting was spent discussing some preliminary recommendations on high school start times. The recommendations were made to the board by an administrative committee charged originally to look at that issue. Green explained how the scope of the committee had broadened beyond start times to include review of high school scheduling. The committee had also looked at the possibility of opening up the district’s comprehensive high schools (Pioneer, Huron, and Skyline) to in-district transfers and school-of-choice students.

The board also weighed the issue of semesters versus trimesters at Skyline High School, and seemed favorably inclined to consider a shift to semesters. No decision was made at the meeting on that topic. [Full Story]

AAPS Board Starts 2013-14 Budget Discussion

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (Nov. 7, 2012): The Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) board of education’s Nov. 7 meeting contained significant discussion of the district’s finances, straddling three fiscal years – past, present, and future.

AAPS superintendent Patricia Green and deputy superintendent for operations Robert Allen.

AAPS superintendent Patricia Green and deputy superintendent for operations Robert Allen.

Before receiving an “unqualified opinion” on the district’s 2011-12 audit and reviewing the first quarter financials from 2012-13, the board took a first pass at framing the discussion surrounding the development of the district’s budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year – a step the board has not typically taken as early as November.

Also at the meeting, the board approved the renaming of two facilities at Pioneer High School – the tennis courts and the planetarium. The tennis courts are being renamed for long-time tennis coach Tom “Brick” Pullen. And the planetarium is being co-named in regnition of a $100,000 gift from the IMRA America company.

The board also recognized Huron High School cross-country runner Allie Cell, for an extraordinary display of sportsmanship during a recent meet.  [Full Story]

AATA Budget Preview: No Deficit

A small $22,692 surplus is projected in the draft budget of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority for its upcoming fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1, 2012. The budget is attached to the Ann Arbor city council online agenda for its Sept. 17 meeting. It shows that the AATA is expecting the 2013 fiscal year essentially to balance expenses against revenues in an overall operating budget of $33,344,048.

Draft AATA Operating Budget FY 2013

The bottom line in the draft AATA operating budget for FY 2013.

That’s an increase of around $3 million over the current year’s budget, which called for the AATA to spend $30,410,622 against only $29,418,998 in revenues. The nearly $1 million planned deficit for that fiscal year – which ends on Sept. 30, 2012 – was previously characterized by the board as a way to “catapult” the organization forward by offering some increased levels of service, in advance of AATA’s possible transition to a new, broader transit authority. Despite budgeting for that $1 million deficit, current projections included in the FY 2013 budget show that the AATA now expects to finish FY 2012 with a much smaller deficit of $296,378 – about one-third of what was projected.

For the new FY 2013 budget, an increase in revenues is accounted for in part by increased passenger revenues. Increased ridership is expected to generate about $750,000 more in fares in the coming year, compared to the fares collected in the fiscal year that’s nearing its end on Sept. 30. The AATA is also budgeting for about $300,000 more in state operating assistance for FY 2013. And the AATA anticipates about $3 million more in federal operating assistance, compared to what it actually received in the current fiscal year. A chunk of that is for a connector study from the northeastern part of the city to its southern edge.

Ann Arbor’s local transit tax, levied at a rate of just over 2 mills, is expected to show stable revenue levels compared to FY 2012, generating about $9.3 million. For the coming year, the AATA does not expect to use any of the local tax levy to help fund commuter express services from Canton and Chelsea, as it has since launching the service. Instead, the AATA will be using $105,217 of federal funds to cover that cost. Responding to an emailed query from The Chronicle, AATA controller Phil Webb explained that the AATA is taking advantage of newly expanded regulations that allows up to $1.47 million of AATA’s programmed federal funds to be used to pay for early investments in the AATA’s 5-year transit program. The AATA released the final draft of that plan on Sept. 5, 2012. [Full Story]

AAPS Board Passes 2012-13 Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting (June 13, 2012): The Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education passed a $188.96 million budget for the 2012-13 school year, which begins July 1.

AAPS school board at its June 15, 2012 meeting.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools board at its June 15, 2012 meeting.

That budget reflects roughly $4 million in spending cuts compared to last year’s budget, and reflects the elimination or restructuring of some transportation services, a reduction in the budget for substitute teachers, and the consolidation of high school summer school programs.

The approved budget also calls for using $6.54 million, or about one-third, of the district’s current fund equity, which caused trustee Christine Stead to cast her vote against the budget. Stead expressed strong concern that the budget neither allows for incremental expenditure shifts, nor sets the district up for successfully weathering the 2013-14 budget cycle and beyond. “I want us to use our past year’s experience as a data point,” she said, “… [T]o act like we are, with the information we have, is difficult for me to support.”

The June 13 meeting also saw the approval of three special briefing items – a renewal of the district’s food service contract with Chartwells, a resolution to upgrade human resources and finance software, and a set of policy revisions. Special briefing items are reviewed and voted on by the board in a single meeting instead of being entertained as first and second briefing items at two consecutive regular meetings.

Finally, the board approved the contract of Robyne Thompson as the new assistant superintendent of secondary education, and extended the contract held with AFSCME Local 1182, which primarily represents custodians and maintenance workers in the district. [Full Story]

AAPS 2012-13 Budget Begins to Take Shape

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education committee of the whole (May 16, 2012): Although they showed mixed sentiment on some issues, trustees tentatively expressed agreement on a total of $4.8 million in budget cuts, and just over $6 million in revenue enhancements.

AAPS board president Deb Mexicotte

AAPS board president Deb Mexicotte led the trustees in their budget discussion at the May 16 committee meeting. The formal budget presentation from the administration will come at the May 23 meeting.

That still leaves a $7 million gap to be addressed as the district faces a $17.8 million deficit for the 2012-13 school year, which begins July 1. There was general agreement on the board to use some amount fund equity to meet the budget targets, but no agreement about how much to use. Hypothetically, the entire $17.8 million shortfall could be covered by drawing on the fund equity the district has to start FY 2013, which is $18.73 million.

But without some cuts and revenue enhancements, that fund equity would be close to just $1 million by the end of the year, which is a half percent of the district’s currently proposed  expenditure budget for FY 2013 – $194 million. In addition, it would leave insufficient reserves to manage cash flow through the summer. And by the end of the following year, fund equity would be projected to be negative $23.5 million.

At the May 16 meeting, most trustees expressed support for leaving Roberto Clemente Student Development Center in place in its current form for at least another year, while evaluating the program’s educational effectiveness. Much of the board sentiment on Clemente was reflected in an exchange between trustees Simone Lightfoot and Glenn Nelson near the end of the three and half hour budget discussion. Lightfoot asserted that Clemente’s parents are “not caught up in test scores – they are just happy that their children want to go to school” and that their students are getting “some basics in place – social and mental.” Nelson responded, “I’m willing to grant that in that part of education, they are doing a good job, but for $18,000 [per-student cost], I’d like both the academic and social/emotional learning.”

The administration’s budget proposal called for the elimination of between 32 and 64 teaching positions, but trustees were in broad agreement that there should be no cuts to teaching positions, if at all possible. Nelson suggested that by hiring less-experienced new teachers to replace retiring teachers, the district would still be able to save roughly $960,000, without incurring any rise in class sizes. Trustees expressed support for that approach, which board president Deb Mexicotte dubbed the ”Nelson model.”

While trustees showed a consensus about maintaining teaching staff levels, they were divided on the issue of transportation. Lightfoot suggested a “hold harmless” approach to transportation this year – as the districts forms an administrative committee with broad stakeholder participation to develop a sustainable transportation plan. Taking almost an opposite view on transportation was trustee Christine Stead, who advocated several times during the meeting that all non-mandated busing should be cut. Based on the board discussion, busing for Ann Arbor Open will likely be preserved via a cost-neutral plan that relies primarily on common stops at the district’s five middle schools. Also likely is that the 4 p.m. middle school bus and the shuttles to and from Community High School will  be cut. Some board members also indicated an interest in “phasing out” busing to the magnet programs at Skyline High School.

The board took no formal votes during their committee-of-the-whole-meeting on May 16. However the board’s consensus on various issues, convey to the AAPS administration, will inform the final budget proposal. That final proposal comes to the board for a first briefing and public hearing on May 23.

In addition to the budget discussion, the May 16 committee meeting included four and a half additional hours of discussion on: discussing gifted and talented programming in the district; outlining the superintendent evaluation review process; and creating a framework for a broad-based committee to study the sustainability of transportation in the district. [Full Story]

AAPS Budget: Public Critical; Board Fretting

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education (May 9, 2012): One of the major tasks of the board of education is setting the budget, the other is setting policy. The May 9 agenda was primarily policy-focused, but discussion on the budget found its way into most sections of the meeting.


Supporters of the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center filled the board room for the May 9 meeting. (Photos by Monet Tiedemann.)

Sentiments expressed during a heated public commentary section were later echoed during agenda planning, as two of the board trustees questioned administrative work being done behind the scenes to prepare for possible budget reductions. The budget does not need to be approved by the board until June 30. A second public forum on the budget will be held on May 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the Huron High School cafeteria.

Several speakers at the May 9 meeting thanked the community for passage of the technology bond millage two days earlier.

Also at the May 9 meeting, trustees considered approving two new easements with the city of Ann Arbor, and awarded a set of bids for physical properties work. They also took a first look at the district’s new anti-bullying policy, as well as a set of other policy updates presented by AAPS administration.

Finally the board reviewed the proposed 2012-13 budget of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD), and shared its concerns about it. Local school boards are required by law to review the WISD’s budget, but have no vote in its actual approval. [Full Story]

AAPS Hears from Community: Keep Clemente

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (April 25, 2012): The board received a formal presentation of the proposed fiscal year 2013 budget. The board is not required to approve the budget until June 30.

At the meeting, 33 parents, students, and staff responded to proposed budget cuts that would affect transportation, Roberto Clemente Student Development Center, and music camps. The total time allotted for public commentary by the AAPS board is 45 minutes. So speakers wanting to address the school board at public commentary at the April 25 AAPS school board meeting were limited to 1 minute and 22 seconds, which was rounded up to a minute and a half.

Brian Marcel and Scott Wenzel, giving the WISD transportation update

Brian Marcel and Scott Menzel gave the AAPS board an update on the transportation services provided by WISD to the district as part of a consortium of other districts.

After hearing the budget presentation, board members shared some of their individual thinking on how best to address the projected $17.8 million deficit facing the district next year. AAPS is sponsoring two community budget forums to get additional feedback on the budget proposal. Both start at 6:30 p.m. The first will be held on May 7 at the Pioneer High School Cafeteria Annex and the second one a week later on May 14 at the Huron High School Cafeteria.

Support of the upcoming technology bond millage came up multiple times at the meeting as one way local residents could have an impact on the funding crisis facing local schools. AAPS district voters will decide that issue on May 8.

Also at this meeting, longtime environmental educator Bill Browning was honored by the board for his years of dedication to the district, as well as his recent $30,000 donation to the AAPS Science and Environmental Education Endowment Fund. [Full Story]

AAPS Weighs Cuts to Staff, Buses, Programs

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education Regular Meeting/Committee of the Whole (April 18, 2012): After quickly approving two items in a regular meeting, the AAPS school board recessed to a committee meeting to discuss informally proposed reductions to the fiscal year 2012-13 budget. The district faces a $17.8 million deficit for the coming year.

Robert Allen, AAPS deputy superintendent for operations

Robert Allen, AAPS deputy superintendent for operations (Photos by Monet Tiedemann)

Trustees discussed possible staffing cuts, reductions to transportation services and discretionary budgets, the restructuring of alternative high school programs, and the elimination of some extracurricular funding. AAPS administration is currently relying on $6 million worth of projected revenue enhancements to cover a chunk of the deficit. The remaining deficit is proposed to be covered through a combination of cuts and use of fund balance – summarized in three different plans: A, B and C.

Plan A has the least amount of cuts and the most use of fund balance, but still calls for a reduction in staff by 32 full-time positions, the elimination of some busing services, and the closure or merging of one of the district’s alternative high schools. Plans B and C have progressively greater cuts and less use of fund balance.

A formal presentation will be made on proposed budget reductions at the next regular board meeting, this Wednesday, April 25, with community forums and public hearings to follow in May. Board president Deb Mexicotte said at the meeting that the board will pass a finalized FY 2012-13 budget in June.

After the jump, the specifics of Plans A, B and C are laid out it detail. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor DDA Updates: Budget, TIF Talk

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (April 4, 2012): The absence of four out of 12 DDA board members had no effect on any outcomes at the meeting, because the board did not have resolutions on its agenda.

Susan Pollay, Marcia Higgins

Before the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority's April 9 budget presentation to the Ann Arbor city council, DDA executive director Susan Pollay rolls up her sleeves as she chats with councilmember Marcia Higgins (Ward 4). (Photos by the writer.)

The meeting took place against the backdrop of the DDA’s budget presentation to the city council the following week – on April 9 – and various other ongoing projects. So the board’s agenda consisted of a collection of regular committee updates and status reports.

Those included an update on the Connecting William Street project – an initiative to explore alternative uses of a limited set of city-owned parcels currently used for parking. The DDA embarked on the project at the direction of the Ann Arbor city council in a resolution it approved about a year ago – on April 4, 2011. The DDA had wanted the ability to lead that exploration, partly in exchange for renegotiating a contract under which the DDA operates the city’s public parking system. That new contract was finally settled on May 31, 2011, and features a clause that provides the city of Ann Arbor 17% of gross revenues out of the public parking system.

Total parking revenues for fiscal year 2013 are projected at around $18 million in the budget approved by the DDA board at its meeting the previous month, on March 7, 2012. That budget was presented by the DDA at a city council work session on April 9. The budget presentation featured a review of the DDA’s history of infrastructure investment and impact on the downtown district since its formation in 1982 – over $100 million of DDA investment, accompanied by $300 million in private investment and an increase in taxable value from $89 million to $386 million.

Another work session highlight was a series of questions posed by councilmember Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) about compliance with Ann Arbor’s ordinance that regulates how the tax increment finance (TIF) tax capture works for the DDA district. Last year, the city’s financial staff pointed to Chapter 7 of the city code, which appears to limit the amount of taxes the DDA can “capture” from the other taxing units in the district. The DDA board agreed with the city’s interpretation, and returned $473,000 in combined TIF revenues to the Ann Arbor District Library, Washtenaw Community College and Washtenaw County.

Subsequently, the DDA reversed its position and gave a different interpretation to Chapter 7. Responding to Kunselman at the work session, DDA board chair (and retired Washtenaw County administrator) Bob Guenzel told Kunselman that the DDA had informed other taxing units of the DDA’s revised position, which was not to say they agreed with the DDA, he said.

Also the focus of TIF monies captured by the DDA is a proposed development at 618 S. Main, which received a positive recommendation from the Ann Arbor planning commission on Jan. 19, 2012. The 7-story building would include 190 units for 231 bedrooms, plus two levels of parking for 121 vehicles. The developer of the project, Dan Ketelaar, has estimated that the tax on the increment between the current valuation of the property and the final built project would yield around $250,000 a year in TIF revenue to the DDA.

Ketelaar is was initially asking that in addition to reimbursement of certain costs (at around $1.4 million) within six months of the project’s completion, the DDA pledge 80% of its TIF capture money for six years – an additional $1.3 million – to support certain aspects of the project in connection with the state’s Community Revitalization Program. But subsequently, Ketelaar revised the request to include just the TIF reimbursement. So the total request, over six years, is $1.3 million. The CRP is the successor to the brownfield and historic preservation tax credit program. In order to approve the tax credit, the state would like to see a commensurate commitment from local units – and Ketelaar is proposing that it take the form of the DDA’s support.

Ketelaar has pitched his idea to the DDA board on several occasions now – first at the full board meeting on Feb. 1, 2012, and at three subsequent DDA partnerships committee meetings. DDA board members are cautious about the precedent that such a pledge might set, and the appropriateness of the DDA’s role at this early stage in the project. (Ketelaar has not yet acquired the land.) At the March 28 partnerships committee meeting, DDA board member Newcombe Clark expressed concern that, depending on the precise role defined for the DDA’s participation, the DDA could effectively be artificially inflating land values.

This report takes a look in more detail at Connecting William Street, the DDA’s April 9 budget presentation to the city council, the lingering TIF capture issue, and the 618 S. Main project, as well as odds and ends from the April 4 DDA board meeting. [Full Story]

DDA OKs Budget, Taps Reserve for $2M

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (March 7, 2012): The main business item for the board at its monthly meeting was the approval of its budget for the coming fiscal year 2013, which starts on July 1, 2012. Across all funds, the FY 2013 DDA budget shows anticipated revenues of $22,097,956 against $24,101,692 in expenditures – for an excess of expenditures over revenues of $2,003,736.

John Hieftje Leah Gunn Nader Nassif

Left to right: Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje and Ann Arbor downtown development authority board members Leah Gunn and Nader Nassif. (Photos by the writer.)

The difference will be covered from the existing fund balance. The use of fund balance, in the current year and in the coming year, was planned as part of the construction of a new underground parking structure on South Fifth Avenue, and a new contract with the city of Ann Arbor, ratified in May of 2011. The contract, under which the DDA manages the city’s public parking system, pays the city of Ann Arbor 17% of gross revenues from the parking system.

At the end of FY 2013, the DDA expects to have a total fund balance of $4.38 million, or an amount equal to about 18.2% of expenses.

In its other main business item, the board authorized a budget of $100,000 for its Connecting William Street project, which it’s undertaking at the direction of the Ann Arbor city council. The council passed a resolution on April 4, 2011 that gave the DDA direction to explore alternative uses of city-owned parcels – currently used for surface parking – in a limited area of downtown. The area is bounded by Ashley, Division, Liberty and William streets.

Parcels included in the area are: the Kline’s lot (on Ashley, north of William), Palio’s lot (at Main & William), the ground floor of the Fourth & William parking structure, the old Y lot (Fifth & William), and the top of the Fifth Avenue underground parking garage, which is nearing completion.

Of the budgeted amount, $65,000 will come from a community challenge grant awarded recently as part of a larger $3 million grant awarded to Washtenaw County by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. The remaining $35,000 will be made up by DDA cash (no more than $20,000) and DDA in-kind contributions of staff time.

Toward the end of Wednesday’s meeting, the board also entertained some discussion about parking meter bags. The bags placed over on-street parking meters to designate the spots as unusable, so that streets are free of parked cars for construction projects or special events. The meter bag discussion came in the context of a request on behalf of FestiFools and conveyed by mayor John Hieftje, who sits on the DDA board. The request was to waive fees ordinarily associated with the meter bag placement for the April 1 FestiFools parade in downtown Ann Arbor.

One possible approach includes the creation of a parking meter puppet. [Full Story]

AAPS Budget Planning Continues

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Nov. 16, 2011): The AAPS board of education heard updates on the district’s budget planning efforts, and received a favorable annual review from its financial auditor.

Randy Trent AAPS

Randy Trent, AAPS executive director of physical properties, gave the board an update on the technology bond millage and gave bid recommendations to the board. (Photos by the writer.)

Trustees approved moving the technology bond millage vote from February to May 2012, and passed a set of resolutions opposing pending state legislation.

A packed consent agenda passed unanimously.

Among other items on the consent agenda, one made official the board’s shift from maintaining two standing committees to meeting monthly as a committee of the whole.

Notable in light of the board’s organizational change was the increase in use of the agenda planning section of the Nov. 16 meeting.

The board’s meeting agenda is now set by the whole board – instead of by an executive committee consisting of the board chair and the committee chairs. [Full Story]

AAPS Seeks Public Input on Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools budget forum (November 10, 2011): About 60 people joined AAPS superintendent Patricia Green, deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen and the rest of the AAPS top administrators at a budget forum last Thursday evening.

Glenn Nelson AAPS

Ann Arbor Public Schools board trustee Glenn Nelson (light blue shirt), listening to parents at the AAPS budget forum on Nov. 10. (Photos by the writer.)

The forum served two distinct purposes: (1) to educate the public on school funding issues, including its specific challenges for crafting next year’s (2012-13) budget; and (2) to solicit ideas from the public on how the district can reduce its budget by $14 million.

The current fiscal year’s approved budget is $183.62 million.

The district typically schedules budget forums in the spring, but this year wants to involve the community earlier than that.

A second forum will take place Monday, Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria annex at Pioneer High School.

At Thursday’s event, Allen said that the district is projecting a $14 million deficit for the 2012-13 school year. Over the past five years, the district has made a cumulative total of nearly $50 million in cuts. [Full Story]

AATA 2012 Budget Will Include Deficit

At its Sept. 15, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board approved its operating budget for the 2012 fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. In a separate vote, the board also approved the AATA work plan for the year.

The budget calls for expenses of $30,410,616 against only $29,418,995 in revenues, for a deficit in the coming year of $991,621. That shortfall will be made up by drawing on the fund balance. According to the budget resolution, the AATA’s fund balance policy requires it to maintain reserves equal to at least three months’ worth of operating expenses. And the AATA expects to have $1.2 million more in its fund reserve to start the year than that minimum fund balance policy requires. So the projected deficit – which the budget resolution attributes partly to one-time expenses associated with the transportation master plan – is within the $1.2 million excess beyond the minimum three-month reserve, which the AATA holds in its fund balance. [.pdf of AATA 2012 operating budget]

During  deliberations, the four board members present stressed the unique, one-time nature of the deficit budget.

In the most significant categories, the AATA’s revenues break down percentage-wise as follows: 31.4% local transit tax; 29.4% state operating assistance; 18.6% passenger fares; 12.8% federal operating assistance. The AATA also receives some revenue from surrounding municipalities that get transit service through purchase of service (POS) agreements. [2012 AATA revenue pie chart]

In the most significant expense categories, the AATA’s expenses break down percentage-wise as follows: 54.7% employee compensation; 18.2% purchased transportation from other providers; 9.3% other purchased services; 5.7% diesel fuel and gasoline. [2012 AATA expenses pie chart]

In a separate vote, the AATA board also approved the 10-page work plan for the fiscal year. Highlights include reconstruction of the Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor. In terms of increased service, the work plan includes a focus on: establishing the AATA as a vanpool service provider; establishing service to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport; improved work-transportation connections between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti; and continued work on commuter rail.

The plan also calls for continued work on the AATA’s information technology, including its website as a communication tool and improved point-of-sale systems to allow people to pay for their fares. [.pdf of work AATA 2012 work plan]

This brief was filed from the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library, where the AATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

CTN: What’s The Vision for Local Television?

Editor’s note: In April 2011, The Chronicle sought to verify statements about Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority finances made by city staff at the Ann Arbor city council’s Feb. 17, 2009 meeting. We learned that the recording of the meeting was no longer available from Community Television Network (CTN), which is part of the city of Ann Arbor’s communications unit. The DVD of the meeting was missing and the online content had been deleted.

CTN Control Room

Chronicle file photo from September 2010 of the control room adjoining the CTN television studio, located on South Industrial Highway. On the screens are images from a local League of Women Voters city council candidate forum.

The Chronicle subsequently obtained an audio cassette recording of the Feb. 17 meeting made by the city clerk.

In relevant part, we report the contents of that city council cassette tape in a separate article. For this article, we take a view of CTN as an organization that’s broader than a missing DVD. But we still begin with a city council meeting.

In May 2009, former cable communications commissioner Paul Bancel addressed the city council during the time allotted for public commentary. He suggested that when councilmembers looked at the city budget, they’d see a $1.5 million allocation to community television. “It’s up to you to make it relevant,” he said.

Is it relevant? For 38 years, Community Television Network has served Ann Arbor. “There will always be cable providers or video providers,” said CTN manager Ralph Salmeron in a recent Chronicle interview.

But how does CTN fit within that media and communications landscape? [Full Story]

Art Commission Briefed on Murals, Dreiseitl

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (June 22, 2011): With only four of their nine members present, the commission didn’t have a quorum for its monthly meeting – but no major votes were on the agenda, so the meeting consisted primarily of updates.

Aaron Seagraves, Marsha Chamberlin

Aaron Seagraves, the city's public arts administrator, and Marsha Chamberlin, chair of the Ann Arbor public art commission, in the entryway atrium of city hall, which is still being renovated. Mosaics by the artist Gerry Kamrowski, formerly at the entrance to city hall, will be installed on the wall behind Chamberlin. (Photo by the writer.)

One of those updates included a report that Jeff Meyers, a commissioner who has launched a public mural program, no longer wants to take the lead in that effort. The pilot program has proposed creating murals at Allmendinger Park and on a retaining wall along Huron Parkway. Because of low turnout at two recent neighborhood forums about the murals, city staff now plan to post an online survey to solicit feedback about the locations.

The commission also got updates on several other projects, including a large water sculpture by Herbert Dreiseitl that’s on track for installation in August. Large bronze plates are being cast at a firm in Warren, Michigan, and site work is continuing in front of the municipal center, where the sculpture will be located.

The commission is also seeking members for a selection committee to choose additional artwork for the lobby of the justice center – the new building at Fifth and Huron that’s adjacent to city hall. (Together, the buildings are known in some circles as the “municipal center.”) A statement of qualifications/request for proposals for the lobby art has been issued, with a deadline for responses extended until Sept. 1. The previous May 31 deadline did not yield sufficient responses for the project, which has an artist’s budget of up to $150,000. [Full Story]

Economic Development Goes to General Fund

At its June 20, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council authorized the blending of its economic development fund – with its fund balance as of June 30, 2010 standing at $967,161 – into its general fund. The move had been planned as a part of the fiscal year 2012 budget that the council adopted at its May 31, 2011 session.

The economic development fund was established on June 18, 2007 by a unanimous vote of the city council by transferring $2.18 million from the general fund to the new economic development fund. It was set up to meet the city’s commitment made to Google to pay for up to 400 parking spaces for its employees, for up to four years for an estimated total cost of approximately $2,029,017. Google’s hiring was not as rapid as it had initially projected, and that left a bit under half of the money untapped.

The Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) No. 54 has also changed the definition of what funds qualify as special revenue funds – the city’s economic development fund was established as such a fund, but no longer qualifies under the new GASB 54 definition, and thus needs to be blended back into the general fund.

The council’s resolution also amended the current fiscal year 2011 budget in some other ways as well, so that expenditures from funds that exceeded budgeted amounts are appropriately covered. Among those expenditures covered were: the International City/County Management Association fire protection study ($54,000); higher maintenance costs for Superior Dam ($35,000); higher snow removal costs and cleanup from the recent Plymouth Road mudslide and pavement markings ($500,000).

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

AAPS Board Sets 2011-12 Budget

The 2011-12 Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) budget, approved by the board of education on June 8, will cut 62.3 teaching positions, modify bus service to high school students, and require the use of $810,000 of the district’s fund balance.

The $183 million budget went through many iterations since originally proposed in April, before the board approved it on Wednesday evening on a 5-2 vote. Trustees Simone Lightfoot and Christine Stead dissented.

Details on the board deliberations that led to the split vote on the budget will be included in The Chronicle’s forthcoming meeting report, along with the other board business transacted that evening.

This brief highlights the key elements of the approved budget. [Full Story]

Regular Budget Maintenance for DDA

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (June 1, 2011): At its regular monthly meeting, the DDA board performed the annual exercise of revising its budget to match actual expenditures for the fiscal year, which ends June 30. It was the only item on the agenda requiring a vote, which was unanimous. The DDA’s FY 2011 budget showed $23,038,310 in expenses against $19,111,321 in total income.

Roger Hewitt, John Hieftje, Leah Gunn

Left to right: Roger Hewitt, mayor John Hieftje, Leah Gunn. Hewitt, a DDA board member, had just handed over a check for $1 million to the mayor. It was the second half of a payment the DDA had agreed to make last year, which had not been required as part of the DDA’s parking contract with the city. (Photos by the writer.)

At Wednesday’s meeting, the board also recapped the previous night’s session of the Ann Arbor city council, which had been a continuation of the meeting that began on May 16. At that meeting, the council had finally ratified its side of a new contract under which the DDA would continue to manage the city’s public parking system.

Key elements of that contract include a transfer to the city of Ann Arbor of 17% of annual gross parking revenues, reporting requirements by the city to the DDA about parking enforcement and street repair, and the ability of the DDA to set parking rates and hours without a city council veto.

The DDA board will likely schedule an extended board meeting in September to prepare for a contractually-required joint working session with the city council, which will include a discussion of parking rates and hours of enforcement.

Included in the usual range of the DDA’s reports from its committees was a review of a recent partnerships committee meeting, when DDA board members began to consider how they would handle the responsibility to plan future uses of city-owned surface parking lots downtown. The DDA was given that responsibility in a city council resolution passed at the council’s April 4, 2011 meeting. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council Does Not Act on Budget

At the May 23, 2011 session of its meeting that had begun the week before on May 16, the Ann Arbor city council did not address two issues it was expected to settle so that it could adopt its fiscal 2012 budget: (1) ratification of a new contract under which the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority would continue to manage the city’s public parking system; and (2) acceptance of prior contributions by the DDA to city projects, as payment for excess tax increment finance (TIF) revenues that have been captured in the DDA’s TIF district since 2003.

Instead of addressing those issues or any other budget issues, the council voted at the very start of the meeting to recess the meeting and continue it on May 31, 2011.

Per Ann Arbor’s city charter, the city council needs to adopt the city administrator’s proposed budget with any amendments no later than the second meeting in May. Failure to adopt the budget results in adoption of the administrator’s proposed budget by default. The city council is hoping to avoid some of the cuts to police and firefighters that are a part of that budget.

For a preview of the council meeting, see Chronicle coverage: “To Be Continued: Ann Arbor Council

The vote to recess, taken before any other item was considered or could be introduced, could be seen as a move to prevent Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) from proposing a resolution to take back responsibility for managing the city’s public parking system from the DDA. The Ann Arbor DDA has a current contract with the city that runs through 2015.

However, Kunselman’s proposed budget amendment would have essentially ignored that contract, and restored oversight of the city’s parking system to the city’s public services unit, by transferring all of the DDA’s parking funds to the city and eliminating two full-time employees at the DDA. [.pdf of Kunselman's resolution as proposed]

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Faces Possible Budget Delay

At an Ann Arbor city council work session held May 9, 2011, mayor John Hieftje raised the possibility that the council’s approval of the city’s budget could be delayed this year. According to the city charter, the city administrator’s proposed budget must be adopted with any amendments no later than the council’s second meeting in May. Hieftje suggested that the council’s second meeting in May, which is now scheduled to start on May 16, might be recessed and continued until the last Friday of the month (May 27).

The additional time would allow for greater clarity on an issue related to the tax increment finance (TIF) capture for the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. The city brought to light last week … [Full Story]

County Budget: “Not Out of the Woods”

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (May 4, 2011): Budget challenges touched most agenda items, either directly or tangentially, during a four-hour board meeting.

Ronnie Peterson

Commissioner Ronnie Peterson, center, expressed dismay over the way the county is allocating its funding for human services. Other commissioners, from left: Yousef Rabhi, Barbara Bergman, Leah Gunn, Rob Turner. (Photos by the writer.)

The board got a quarterly update for the current year’s budget, as well as a progress report on development of the 2012-2013 budget. County administrator Verna McDaniel reported that thanks to a less-than-expected drop in property tax revenues, a two-year projected deficit has fallen from nearly $21 million to $17.5 million.

To address the deficit, the county is preparing to begin negotiations with its 17 labor unions, hoping to get $8 million in cuts to employee compensation and benefits over the next two years. They also hope to make $8 million in savings from organizational restructuring.

An item not on the agenda drew attention, particularly from commissioner Ronnie Peterson. A coordinated funding effort for local nonprofits – allocating funds from the county, the city of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw Urban County and Washtenaw United Way – is nearing its final stages. The county board will be asked to vote on funding recommendations at its May 18 meeting. However, nonprofits leaders have already been notified of those recommendations, and some attended the May 4 meeting to lobby for support. Peterson sharply criticized the process – which the board had approved last year – saying they seem to have ceded decision-making authority for the funding. He didn’t like it.

A development-related issue also raised financial concerns for some commissioners –  the proposed Packard Square development in Ann Arbor. The board was asked to give initial approval of a $1 million grant application and $1 million loan from the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources and Environment, for brownfield cleanup at the site. Commissioners were also asked to authorize designation of the county’s full faith and credit as a guarantee to any loan that might be awarded, up to $1 million.

Commissioner Wes Prater argued that items related to significant financial issues must first be addressed at a working session, according to board rules. After some debate, Prater’s motion to postpone action on Packard Square was approved by a majority of commissioners, moving it to a working session the following day. A Chronicle report on that session will be forthcoming.

The meeting also included approval of expanded IT collaboration with the county, the city of Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, and the appointment of Michael Smith as the new director for the county’s veteran services office. And during the time for communications from the board, commissioner Dan Smith indicated that he and Yousef Rabhi are working on changes to compensation for commissioners – they’ll likely be bringing a proposal to the board later this year. [Full Story]

DDA Passes Budget, Pig to Follow

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (March 2, 2011): At its regular monthly meeting, the DDA board approved its budget for the next two years – fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The DDA’s fiscal calendar is aligned with the city of Ann Arbor’s, which runs from July 1 to June 30.

Board members of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority

DDA board members study the budget proposal they approved at the March 2 meeting. From left to right: Bob Guenzel, Sandi Smith, Russ Collins. Obscured, sitting between Guenzel and Smith, is John Mouat. (Photo by the writer.)

For FY 2012, the DDA is budgeting for $20,118,601 in total revenues – of that amount, $3,893,943 is forecast to come from tax capture, $16,162,752 from parking revenues, and $61,906 from interest earnings. Budgeted expenses, at $20,631,328, will exceed revenues by $512,727.

The board has not yet incorporated into its budget the likely revisions that will be made to the DDA’s contract with the city of Ann Arbor, under which it manages the city’s public parking system. Those contract revisions are expected to result in a total parking-contract-related payment to the city of $2.26 million in FY 2012. The approved DDA budgets for FY 2012 and 2013 include only the roughly $1 million of payments to the city that the DDA is currently obligated to make.

While the DDA expects to be drawing down its fund balances over the next two years – due in large part to the expense of the Fifth Avenue underground parking structure that’s under construction – the longer-range forecast by the DDA shows increases in revenue that are expected to replenish reserves. The DDA estimates that its tax capture revenue will increase from its current level of roughly $3.9 million to $4.7 million by 2020. Parking revenues are also forecast to increase – due in part to the increase in parking space inventory offered by the underground garage, but also due to increases in parking rates – from an estimated $16 million next year to $22 million by 2020.

About the underground parking garage, at the February 2009 board meeting, Russ Collins had said the board needed to keep alert for their next projects after “this pig makes it through the python.” At Wednesday’s meeting, mayor John Hieftje alluded to Collins’ remark in trying to emphasize the long-range projected financial health of the DDA.

In the other business item handled by the board at its Wednesday meeting, Hieftje cast the lone vote of dissent on a vote to approve $45,000 out of $50,000 for a discretionary management incentive that’s part of the DDA’s contract with Republic Parking, which manages day-to-day operations for the city’s parking system.

The board also heard its usual round of committee reports; however, no one addressed the board during either of the opportunities for public comment. Highlights from Ray Detter’s report from the Downtown Citizens Advisory Council included an update on plans for the new Blake Transit Center and a report from the city’s panhandling task force. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor DDA Approves FY2012-13 Budgets

At its March 2, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority approved an operating budget for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. For FY 2012, the DDA is budgeting for $20,118,601 in total revenues – of that amount, $3,893,943 is forecast to come from tax capture, $16,162,752 from parking revenues, and $61,906 from interest earnings.

For FY 2012, budgeted expenses will exceed revenues by $512,727 – they total $20,631,328. Budgeted expenses do not include terms of a new parking agreement under which the DDA manages the public parking system for the city of Ann Arbor. The $1,010,930 city payment in the budget is based on the current arrangement between the city and the DDA under which the DDA pays the city proceeds from the old YMCA lot and the 415 W. Washington lot, plus around $800,000 for the city’s street repair funds – that’s related to the cost of maintaining on-street parking spaces.

So the DDA’s FY 2012 budget does not currently provide for the equivalent of an additional $2 million “rent” payment to the city, which is currently being negotiated by two “mutually beneficial” committees – one consisting of city councilmembers and the other consisting of DDA board members. A Feb. 28 meeting of the two committees – announced four days earlier – to discuss a draft of a new contract was canceled, when councilmembers Carsten Hohnke and Christopher Taylor were unable to accommodate the meeting, having just arrived back from their vacations. That meeting is now scheduled for March 7.

The DDA’s 10-year plan does factor in a new parking agreement with the city, under which all of the parking-related payments by the DDA to the city would come from a percentage of gross parking revenues. The percentage-of-gross numbers currently under discussion to be paid to the city are 14-15%, which would amount to a total payment of $2.26 million in FY 2012.

This brief was filed from the DDA boardroom at 150 S. Fifth Ave., Suite 301. A more detailed report will follow. [Full Story]

DDA Reviews First Quarter Financials

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Nov. 3, 2010): The DDA board passed a single resolution at Wednesday’s meeting: to reorganize its committee structure to include a communications and economic development committee.

DDA board members before their meeting began: Bob Guenzel (foreground); John Mouat (arms extended); Sandi Smith (partially obscured); Russ Collins (jacket and tie). Mouat was not demonstrating how a HAWK pedestrian signal flies. (Photos by the writer.)

But board members heard a series of reports, including a look at the financial picture from the first quarter of FY 2010. Fund balances are lower than they’ve been historically – something the board knew to anticipate with the construction of the new underground parking structure along Fifth Avenue. The report from the capital improvements committee indicated that the project is proceeding apace, with headway being made on solving a problem with de-watering the site. During public commentary, the board heard from proponents of putting a community commons on top of the underground parking garage once it’s completed.

At the meeting, the board indicated that they’d take an extended look at their 10-year budget projections at a board meeting in early 2011. Affecting the DDA’s 10-year plan are at least two major items: (1) the Fifth Avenue underground parking garage construction, and (2) ongoing negotiations with the city of Ann Arbor on the amount of “rent” to be paid by the DDA to the city as part of the parking contract under which the DDA manages the city’s parking system.

Other reports from the meeting with a potential effect on the DDA’s budget included an update on the City Apartments project planned by Village Green and located at First and Washington. The DDA is slated to purchase the parking deck component of the project on its completion – for $9 million. Included with the board’s packet were a series of proposed amendments to the parking agreement between the city of Ann Arbor, Village Green and the DDA. Village Green is scheduled to complete its purchase of the First and Washington parcel in May 2011.

Other potential impacts to the DDA’s budget included a report from the board’s partnerships committee that noted a request for grant funding from the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, plus an additional grant funding request from the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County.

The report from the board’s transportation committee included discussion of enhanced service between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, as well as the possibility of adapting the #17 route to serve a partial circulator function for downtown. Also related to transportation, the board received a presentation from Pat Cawley, a city of Ann Arbor traffic engineer, on the installation of a new HAWK pedestrian crossing signal at the intersection of Chapin and Huron.

The board also heard from representatives of the Main Street Business Improvement Zone on the delivery of a blueprint for creating other such zones in the downtown. [Full Story]

AATA Approves Budget, UM Agreement

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Sept. 16, 2010): After failing to achieve a quorum last month, this month the AATA board hit enough of the right figurative buttons to transact successfully the month’s business.

David Nacht with microphone.

AATA board member David Nacht presses his microphone button. (Photos by the writer.)

That business included the approval of its fiscal year 2011 budget, which starts Oct. 1, 2010 and goes through Sept. 30, 2011. The FY 2011 budget calls for a total of $27,030,407 in expenses, among them a provision for a 2% merit-based increase in non-union staff compensation, with an additional 1% bonus pool for the organization’s top performers.

The board also approved another five-year MRide agreement with the University of Michigan to provide transportation for UM faculty, students and staff. Under the agreement, which runs from 2010-2015, UM affiliates will continue to board without paying a fare, with UM paying the AATA $1 per boarding.

When added to the per-boarding payment, $800,000-$900,000 of federal funds – received by UM and included as part of the MRide deal – will result in an estimated $2.37 million payment by UM to the AATA in FY 2011, the first year of the new agreement.

The board also voted to award a three-year contract to RideConnect – a partnership of WATS, Washtenaw County, WAVE and People’s Express – valued at $200,000 per year. The contract will be paid by federal and state funds designated specifically to aid the coordination between public transit and human services transportation needs.

The board’s meeting also included, for the first time, literal buttons. The board convened a meeting for the first time at its new meeting location – the Ann Arbor District Library’s board room – which is equipped with video recording equipment, including buttons used by meeting participants to turn their microphones on and off.

And some remarks by a public speaker pushed the wrong button for David Nacht, who responded to the speaker’s remarks by saying that attitudes reflecting age-based discrimination were not appropriate. [Full Story]