Stories indexed with the term ‘unions’

Ann Arbor: Engaging the FY 2012 Budget

Editor’s note: On Jan. 31, the city council will begin a series of workshops on next year’s budget. The most recent status update from the city’s CFO, Tom Crawford, is that the city faces a $2.4 million shortfall if it does not reduce expenses. That figure assumes: (1) The city will receive around $2 million in parking revenue from the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority; (2) shared sales tax revenue from the state will continue at the same levels as last year; and (3) unresolved labor contracts will settle in a way that results in no increases to the wage structure, plus additional reductions equivalent to the cost savings the city would see if all employees were on the new health care plan.

The council has already convened two retreats on the budget – this report is a summary of those retreats.

1936 newspaper clipping

From the May 19, 1936 edition of the Ann Arbor Daily News. The scan was passed along to The Chronicle by the city's environmental coordinator, Matt Naud. Naud's source was Craig Hupy, head of the city's systems planning unit, who discovered some old papers in an antique store.

Late last year, on Dec. 4, 2010, the Ann Arbor city council held the first of two budget retreats for the next year’s budget adoption process. The current 2011 fiscal year ends on June 30, 2011, and the council will need to finalize its FY 2012 budget in May. The council typically begins contemplating the next fiscal year’s budget at a retreat near the end of the calendar year.

Two days after the first retreat, at the Dec. 6 regular city council meeting, city administrator Roger Fraser and councilmembers recapped the event, with Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) describing it as the best retreat discussion on the budget since he’s been on the council. First elected to the council in 2005, Rapundalo has five previous budget seasons to compare against.

The December retreat agenda reflected two main items: (1) general economic conditions; and (2) a sustainable service delivery model. The grim condition of the state’s economy was a point that was also driven home by Kirk Profit – director of Governmental Consultant Services, the city’s lobbyist in Lansing – in a presentation to the council at their Dec. 6 regular meeting.

The second retreat, on Jan. 8, followed up with a focus on services. To prepare for the retreat, councilmembers had ranked various city services by priority.

At both retreats, councilmembers and staff took the opportunity to communicate a message to city labor unions, some of whom Rapundalo characterized as not yet having seen fit to “recognize economic reality.”

And as chair of the council’s labor committee, Rapundalo has said he’ll give updates at the council’s regular meetings on the status of labor negotiations. He started the updates at the council’s Jan. 20 meeting. The implicit message communicated by the first update: Ann Arbor’s labor unions aren’t making the kind of concessions they should reasonably make, given economic conditions.

This report features highlights of the discussion from both retreats – including issues like the city’s approach to fire and police protection, solid waste and composting, as well as possible replacement of the general fund operating millage with a city income tax.

At both retreats, city administrator Roger Fraser and key city staff did their best to frame the council’s conversation not as a question of what services to cut. Instead, they tried to get councilmembers to consider which services might be delivered in a different way. The sustainability of the service delivery model depends on how the city delivers those services to residents – ranging from employment of full-time city workers, outsourcing the work, or by not offering the service at all.

To frame the context of these comparatively brief retreat highlights, we first offer a look back to 1936, when the city delivered a sidewalk snowplowing service to its residents. How? Partly by hiring in teams of horses to do the job. [Full Story]

Council Plows Ahead With Human Services

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Nov. 4, 2010): At its first meeting of November – held on Thursday instead of the usual Monday to accommodate Tuesday elections – the Ann Arbor city council transacted a fair amount of business in its relatively short session.

Snow Plow

Russell Hanshue, with the city's IT services unit, describes how a sensor attached to a snowplow would record the plow's state as up or down. The city plans to purchase software to monitor remotely the on-board systems of its vehicles. (Photo by the writer.)

That business ranged from authorization of a coordinated human services funding approach to approval of new GIS software.

The coordinated funding approach to human services would extend the collaboration among the city of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and the Urban County to include two nonprofit funders – United Way of Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

The GIS software will allow remote monitoring of engine and system performance on board the city’s vehicle fleet. The vehicle monitoring software has the ancillary benefit of allowing residents to view a real-time map of snowplow activity during a snowfall. At Thursday’s meeting, the council also authorized the purchase of $330,000 worth of road salt that city trucks will, if necessary, spread on the roads this winter.

In other business, the council gave final approval to a new stormwater code, which requires some kind of mitigation any time more than 200 square feet of impervious surface is added in residential areas.

The council again took no action on a $160,000 request from the 15th District Court to purchase furniture. The request had been postponed at the council’s previous meeting, pending production of a list of items to be purchased. The list was not ready, and the issue was again postponed.

The council received a presentation on the installation of a new HAWK pedestrian crossing signal at Chapin and Huron, which was in substance identical to one the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority had received the day before.

A range of topics were addressed during comments from the public, perhaps most significantly remarks from Nicholas Nightwine, who spoke on behalf of the Local 369 AFSCME union on the issue of privatizing the city’s composting operation. The city council is due to hear a presentation at a Monday, Nov. 8 work session on the proposal, which they may vote on as early as Nov. 15. [Full Story]

AAPS: Which Bus Route to Take?

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (June 4, 2010): At an extra, regular meeting on Friday evening, the school board heard an updated presentation on the details of a proposed consolidation of school transportation services with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD). The board’s second briefing on the consolidation and its vote, will come Wednesday, June 9.


AAPS trustee Susan Baskett and deputy superintendent for operations Robert Allen listen to the transportation consolidation proposal. (Photos by the writer.)

Brian Marcel, assistant superintendent of business services for WISD, walked board members through the proposal, and went through an extensive list of questions and answers about the plan. A few bus drivers from AAPS, as well as some from Lincoln Consolidated Schools, attended the meeting – one of them, Richard Miller, spoke during public commentary.

The only other business conducted at the meeting was to approve a set of minutes, and to schedule an executive session before the next regular meeting on Wednesday, June 9. [Full Story]

Pizza, Payroll and Budget Pain

At a pre-board meeting rally held by

Pizza was served at Wednesday's pre-board meeting rally held by AFSCME Local 2733 in the parking lot next to the county administration building, at the southwest corner of Catherine and Fourth. The union wanted its members to turn out as the county Board of Commissioners considered cuts to the 2010-2011 budget.

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting (June 3, 2009): Before commissioners met on Wednesday, about 50 people gathered in the parking lot next to the county administration building for a rally organized by AFSCME Local 2733, the largest of the unions for county workers, representing about 700 employees. This wasn’t a marching-while-carrying-picket-signs rally, however. It was more of a eating-pizza-and-talking event, designed to get members to attend the 6:30 p.m. board meeting as a show of support for the unions.

Union workers mingled with commissioners and other county staff to talk about how to deal with a projected $26 million deficit in the county’s budget over the next two years – a topic that was the main item on Wednesday’s agenda for the board of commissioners.

Recommendations made during the meeting by county administrator, Bob Guenzel – which were aimed at balancing the $102 million general fund budget – included cuts to many departments and to funding for local nonprofits, the elimination of 26 positions (including 12 that are already vacant) and a caution that there’ll be more cuts to come.

Discussion of those recommendations by commissioners during the Ways & Means Committee portion of their meeting resulted in approval of four budget-related resolutions. Those resolutions will receive a final vote from commissioners during their regular board meeting on July 8. Meanwhile, the administration hopes to negotiate concessions from the 17 unions that represent roughly 1,000 of the county’s 1,350 work force. All parties agree that the outcome of those negotiations will be crucial. [Full Story]