Stories indexed with the term ‘economic development funding’

Council Tables Ann Arbor SPARK Contract

The $75,000 annual contract with Ann Arbor SPARK for economic development services has been tabled by the Ann Arbor city council. The 6-5 vote by the council at its June 16, 2014 meeting came after 10 minutes of deliberations, with support from Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Jack Eaton (Ward 4), Mike Anglin (Ward 5), Sabra Briere (Ward 1), and Jane Lumm (Ward 2).

The abbreviated discussion was the result of the fact that a motion to table – as contrasted to a motion to postpone to a date certain – is not debatable. So once the motion was made, the council immediately voted. The motion to table was made by Eaton, who said it could be taken up … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor SPARK to Post Financials

The economic development nonprofit Ann Arbor SPARK will be posting its financial statements on its website, according to a letter written by SPARK executive director Paul Krutko on Dec. 4, 2013. Krutko’s letter was sent to Washtenaw County board of commissioners chair Yousef Rabhi and Ann Arbor city administrator Steve Powers – both of whom are members of SPARK’s board. The letter came after an Ann Arbor SPARK board of director’s meeting on Nov. 25, 2013.

The meeting and the letter came after SPARK had declined several previous requests for its financial statements – from rank-and-file residents, journalists as well as elected officials. SPARK’s previous decision not to release past statements became moot when Ann Arbor resident Kai Petainen … [Full Story]

County Board Debates, OKs Act 88 Tax Hike

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Oct. 3, 2012): A sometimes heated debate over whether to raise a tax for economic development resulted in narrow approval by the board. It was a 6-5 vote on the increase to 0.06 mills, up from 0.05 mills. As an example, the 20% hike means that taxes for economic development will increase from $5 to $6 for each $100,000 of a property’s taxable value. The issue had been previously discussed at the board’s Sept. 19 meeting, but postponed until Oct. 3.

Janis Bobrin

Janis Bobrin, Washtenaw County’s water resources commissioner, attended the Oct. 3, 2012 county board meeting to present environmental excellence awards. She received a standing ovation from commissioners. She is not running for re-election, and will leave office later this year after more than two decades in that position. (Photos by the writer.)

The board is authorized to levy the tax under Act 88 of 1913 – and it does not require a voter referendum. Voting against the increase were commissioners Ronnie Peterson, Alicia Ping, Wes Prater, Dan Smith and Rob Turner. They cited several objections, including the timing of a tax increase while many taxpayers are struggling because of the economy, and the unlikelihood that the tax will be lowered in the future, when economic conditions improve. Peterson also felt that the Act 88 funds aren’t being used for their original purpose – to leverage matching dollars for economic development – and instead are being diverted to support county operations.” It was never meant to be a piggy bank for county government,” he said.

The final vote to levy the increased tax passed 8-3, with Ronnie Peterson, Wes Prater and Dan Smith voting against it. Alicia Ping has in the past also voted against the Act 88 tax, but supported it this time – though she voted against the amendment to increase the rate. She hoped commissioners would consider reallocating some funding for the western side of the county, pointing out that there are economic development needs there too, including a lack of decent Internet access.

Far less contentious was an initial vote to move control over administering the county’s 5% accommodation tax from the county treasurer’s office to the finance director. Two members of the Washtenaw County Hotel/Motel Association spoke in support of changing the accommodation ordinance in this way. The vote by commissioners was unanimous, though Dan Smith noted that this is the second time this year that the ordinance has been revised, and he hoped it would be the last. He also expressed some concern that all hoteliers aren’t being treated equitably. A final vote and public hearing on the change is set for Oct. 17.

Commissioners also approved a set of recommendations to guide county administrator Verna McDaniel in her negotiations with the Humane Society of Huron Valley for animal control services. The current contract with HSHV ends on Dec. 31. An accompanying report from a policy task force was discussed only briefly – in part because the final version had been sent to commissioners only that day and there had been little time to digest it, and in part because some commissioners wanted to adjourn so that they could watch the first presidential debate, which began at 9 p.m. The board plans to continue discussion of the issue at a future date.

During the meeting, board chair Conan Smith told commissioners that a caucus would be held immediately prior to the next board meeting – on Nov. 7, at 5:30 p.m. – to discuss appointments to various county boards, commissions and committees. Such appointment caucuses are open to the public. [A listing of all vacancies is found on this website. An online application to apply for an opening can be found here.] The news prompted Ronnie Peterson to criticize the process, which he felt was not sufficiently transparent. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council OKs SPARK Contract

At its June 18, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved a $75,000 contract with the economic development agency Ann Arbor SPARK.

The contract has been renewed annually since the Washtenaw Development Council and Ann Arbor SPARK merged in 2006. Previously, Ann Arbor had contracted with the WDC for the business support services for which it now contracts with SPARK. On June 20, 2005, the city council authorized that one-year contract with WDC for $40,000. This year’s $75,000 contract with SPARK describes the organization’s focus the same way it did last year, as “building our innovation-focused community through continual proactive support of entrepreneurs, regional businesses, university tech transfer offices, and networking organizations.”

Ann Arbor SPARK is also the contractor hired by the city’s … [Full Story]

County OKs Taxes for Econ Dev, Veterans

At its Sept. 21, 2011 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners gave final approval to levy two taxes in December 2011: (1) 0.05 mills for support of economic development and agriculture; and (2) 0.025 mills to pay for services for indigent veterans. Because the Michigan statutes that authorize these millages predate the state’s Headlee Amendment, they can be approved by the board without a voter referendum. Initial approval and public hearings on these millages occurred at the board’s Sept. 7 meeting.

The indigent veterans millage was passed with dissent from Alicia Ping. It will cost homeowners about $2.50 for every $100,000 of a home’s taxable value. It’s expected to raise $344,486 – about $11,000 less than in 2010, due to projected … [Full Story]

County Board Acts on Millages, Fees, Bonds

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting (Sept. 15, 2010): In a meeting remarkable mainly for its brevity – lasting less than 30 minutes – county commissioners on Wednesday passed several resolutions, ranging from approval of a millage that funds services for indigent veterans to new fees for remote-access online searching and copying of land records from the county register of deeds database.

Yousef Rabhi, Leah Gunn, Jim Dries

Yousef Rabhi, left, who won the District 11 Democratic primary for county commissioner, talks with commissioner Leah Gunn (District 9) and Jim Dries, chief deputy clerk, before the Sept. 15 county board meeting.

No one spoke during any of the four opportunities for public commentary, nor did anyone speak at a public hearing for the indigent veterans millage. The board set another public hearing for Oct. 6 to seek input on an economic development millage it plans to levy.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the board passed the five-year master plan for Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation, and gave initial approval to backing a bond for a $2.8 million Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority project. The project will include a facility upgrade to handle single-stream recycling.

The board also approved a $6.5 million first-quarter budget and personnel changes for the Community Support & Treatment Services (CSTS) department, which operates under a fiscal year that’s aligned with the state and begins on Oct. 1. CSTS is in the process of merging with the Washtenaw Community Health Organization (WCHO), a partnership between the county and the University of Michigan Health System. The board got an update on that merger at its Sept. 16 working session. [Full Story]

County EDC: Money to Loan, But No Deals

Washtenaw County Economic Development Corporation board meeting (March 15, 2010): On Monday, the EDC board met for just the second time since 2005. On the agenda: A discussion about the availability of federal bonds that have been allocated to Washtenaw County, but not used, for projects by private firms.

Though federal legislation expanded the types of businesses that can use the bonds, a national credit crunch has essentially slowed potential deals to a halt. “We await the projects,” said John Axe, the EDC’s bond counsel. Unless extended by Congress, the program expires at the end of 2010. [Full Story]

Board Tables Economic Development Tax

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting (Oct. 21, 2009): Action on a tax expected to raise around $600,000 a year for economic development and agriculture-related activities was postponed Wednesday after a move to let county board members vote on separate pieces of the plan – rather than a single package – led to confusion and some consternation.

Commissioner Mark Ouimet asked to have the vote broken into two parts. A Republican representing more rural areas of the county, Ouimet wanted:

  • one vote on money to fund 4-H, horticulture/MSU Extension, an agricultural innovation effort and the Food Systems Economic Partnership;
  • a second vote to fund the economic development agency Ann Arbor SPARK, SPARK East, the Eastern Leaders Group and a new county office, the Economic Development and Energy Department, to be led by Tony VanDerworp.

But Ouimet’s colleagues on the board were unprepared for the change. A number struggled to follow his plan for unbundling items in the single resolution in front of them and what the potential defeat of any portion of the plan would mean. [Full Story]

Non-Union County Employees Face Pay Cut

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners administrative briefing (May 27, 2009): At Wednesday’s briefing, commissioners heard more details about the county administration’s plan to cut expenses – a plan that will be formally introduced at the board’s June 3 meeting. Also, commissioners appeared to reach consensus on a proposal to cut their own expenses for 2010 and 2011. And a proposed economic development millage was taken off the June 3 agenda.

County administrator Bob Guenzel has proposed that the county’s nearly 300 non-union employees receive pay cuts of 3% and 2% in 2010 and 2011, respectively. In addition, two previously scheduled 1.5% raises in 2010 would be rescinded, and all pay-for-performance incentives would be canceled for 2009 through 2011. Health insurance benefits would also be affected – changes include instituting a $50 medical premium sharing per month, beginning in January 2011.

Guenzel told commissioners that these steps, which require board approval, would save the county roughly $2.3 million. The cuts are part of a broader effort to deal with a projected $26 million deficit over the next two years.  [Full Story]