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Sterling Heights

May 10, 2013

City adopts 2013-14 budget

By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

Sterling Heights City Council members welcomed a leaner 2013-14 budget with a unanimous 7-0 vote May 7, but one official alluded that more cuts could be on the way if more revenues fail to come in.

While discussing the adopted $132.7 million budget, Finance and Budget Director Brian Baker pointed out all the spending cuts the city has made to its budget in the last several years.

“The total budget that you have before you tonight is the lowest in 10 years, and on an inflation-adjusted basis, it’s the lowest in 18 years,” he said.

Overall, the freshly adopted budget is about $2.8 million smaller than the last one. City officials have cited cost savings from worker concessions and a leaner staff, as well as declining debt payments and less federal funding.

The 2013-14 budget contains an $80.9 million general fund, an $835,000 capital projects fund and $10.3 million in special revenue funds that cover items like road maintenance and community development block grants. In addition, the total budget includes a $36.7 million water and sewer fund, as well as about $4 million for debt service.

Baker said the city has been hit with $33.1 million in state funding cuts, with the budget clarifying that the figure is cumulative through 2002. And while residents pay around $66 in city taxes per month, Baker added that the city has lost about $67.2 million in property tax revenues over the last six years.

“As a result, our tax revenues now are the lowest in nine years,” he said.

Baker pointed to a recent city survey of residents that gave Sterling Heights an 85 percent favorability rating.

“We’ve done a good job managing our finances and continuing to provide services, though reduced, at a very reasonable cost because we took action early to head off some of the revenue declines and become even more efficient,” he said.

But he also said the city could face cuts to public safety or service levels in the future, unless the city decides to “re-invest in the community.” City officials have talked about putting a public safety millage proposal before voters, but have not committed to any plan yet.

Councilwoman Barbara Ziarko thanked her colleagues for their hard work and said she understood the budgetary concerns of “minority departments,” such as community relations, the library, and the Parks and Recreation Department.

But she said the council will have a chance to adjust the budget at a later date.

“We are hoping that this is just temporary, and when I say temporary, that we’ll find some kind of resolve with the help of residents in the near future,” she said. “But for today, we’re going to do the best that we can with what we have to work with.”

Prior to the vote, the council held multiple public budget workshops. At an earlier meeting, council added amendments to the proposed budget that committed to repairing sections of four streets and changing the fee structure for violating snow emergencies.

Learn more about Sterling Heights at www.sterling-heights.net or by calling (586) 446-2489.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at eczarnik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1058.