City Council exploring budget priorities for coming fiscal year

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 6, 2018

GROSSE POINTE CITY — Although the Grosse Pointe City Council won’t be voting to approve a budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year for a couple of months, officials are already evaluating spending and priorities for the coming year.

City leaders discussed the possibilities of creating a new municipal website, rezoning Mack Avenue and conducting a resident survey to determine satisfaction levels with services as possible important expenditures for the new fiscal year, which will start July 1. A revised master plan could be on the table. During a Feb. 12 City Council meeting, City Manager Pete Dame also talked about salaries for City personnel.

“There is a tightening labor supply,” said Dame, pointing out that a couple of Department of Public Works employees have left to take jobs with higher salaries elsewhere. “We know that we need to pay people an appropriate wage, but we (also) need to stay within the revenues that we have.”

He added that state-shared and property tax revenues — two of the biggest sources of income for the City — haven’t risen much in recent years, even though the economy has been on the rebound.

“We are in solid financial condition, but that’s only because we’ve worked very hard to keep expenditures in line with revenues,” Dame said.

Revenues have fallen by roughly 21 percent since the recession, and Dame said the City now also has “20 percent less staff than we used to.”

Because of the way property tax revenue is structured in Michigan, municipalities haven’t come close to recovering revenue lost after the housing market collapse and recession circa 2008, despite a strong rise in local property values in the last several years. City Councilwoman Sheila Tomkowiak made note of a “depressing statistic” — the City isn’t expected to reach 2009 revenue levels until around 2030.

“The increase people see in their housing values are not matched in property tax revenue,” Dame said.

He said a survey would likely cost about $15,000, a new website is projected to cost $15,000 to $20,000, and a revised master plan could cost roughly $15,000 to $20,000.

If the City can only tackle one of these possible projects, “I think the website’s the most important one,” City Councilman Donald Parthum Jr. said.

Dame said the city where he formerly worked as a city manager conducted a survey of residents every three years.

“I’ve long wanted to do a community survey here,” he said. “I think they’re an excellent method to get a true view of sentiment across the community.”

In addition, if a survey is done professionally, Dame said the City could benchmark its results with those of other municipalities.

“You can compare (the data) to other communities’ results and learn how to improve,” he told the council.

Tomkowiak said it would be wise to do a survey before building a new website.

“It could really help inform” the website’s content and structure, she said.

At press time, the City Council was slated to approve a list of goals for the coming fiscal year at its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. March 19. For an agenda or more information, visit the City’s website at