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Sterling Heights

May 13, 2014

Council approves 2014-15 budget

By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

New tax revenues will be invested into new public safety equipment, road repairs and more, according to the 2014-15 budget that the Sterling Heights City Council unanimously passed by adopting an annual appropriations ordinance May 6.

Budget and Fitnance Director Brian Baker said the city held public budget workshops over the past several weeks to discuss the details that are contained in the $155.6 million budget.

City officials say the budget is 14.9 percent larger than last year, which comes out to an additional $20.2 million. The new budget goes into effect July 1.

Baker credited voters’ approval of a 2.5-mill public safety and street improvement millage proposal last November for giving the city some additional resources.

“Now with the voter-approved Safe Streets Proposal, which is included in the budget, (most) of the budget increase next year is devoted to additional public safety resources and to invest in capital assets,” he said.

Baker said the new budget restores public safety capital funding and will replace 11 police vehicles, police in-car video cameras, and Fire Department equipment such as a battalion chief’s response vehicle.

The city plans to hire and train 12 new police officers before some members of the force retire, and the Fire Department will employ a fire officer mentoring program ahead of foreseen retirements.

“The budget also includes funding for one of the largest increases in road repairs in the city’s history,” Baker added, “including a six-fold increase in neighborhood road repairs, the reconstruction of Van Dyke and repairs to Mound Road, and six park projects.”

Despite the recent millage increase, Baker said the city’s total tax rate is 5.5 mills less than the average of all cities in Macomb County, and the average resident will pay $252, or 9.1 percent, less than seven years ago, Baker said.

Baker added that the new budget contains no new debt and fully funds long-term liabilities.

During public comment, resident Linda Godfrey told the council, among other things, that she was “very dismayed to see that you did not include the general employees in here in this budget.”

She pointed to a raise City Manager Mark Vanderpool received and contrasted it to city employees still having furlough days on their schedule.

In response, Vanderpool said unpaid furlough days have to be negotiated through collective bargaining.

“There is a process that we have to go through to negotiate concessions or the unraveling of those, so to speak, along with other provisions in the collective bargaining agreements. And I will say that those negotiations are underway, as we speak, with a number of groups,” he said.

Learn more about the Sterling Heights budget 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.