Harper Woods approves 2013 budget

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published November 16, 2012

HARPER WOODS — A couple of years ago, the city’s finances looked grim, with very little to be excited about in years to come, but this year’s budget painted a brighter picture.

Certainly, things are still tough in the city, which continues to have to tighten its belt and work with fewer employees in the past, including in key departments like police and fire.

“We continue to have reduced revenue,” City Manager Randolph Skotarczyk said, adding that they have made significant progress in reducing costs and negotiating with unions for concessions, something they continue to do. “The reduction of our taxable value remains the single most stressful concern, when it comes to our general fund.”

Yet, the financial picture is improving. City Council approv-ed the 2013 Budget on Nov. 5.

The city is projecting a more-than-$1.7 million fund balance at the end of next year, which puts it in the 10 percent that is recommended for cities.

“I am pleased to see that the city manager is projecting a nice fund balance; that is an acceptable fund balance at the end of the year and that gives me a great deal of relief,” Council member Vivian Sawicki said. “I feel as if we are coming back to some stronger footing.

“I think that was a lot of work, and I think that that speaks very well to the job that the city manager is doing here,” he said.

Others also felt positive about the latest budget projections.

“This is a very positive budget that we are passing,” Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl Costantino said. “We are turning things around.

“We have a long-range plan and we’re sticking to it,” she said. “It’s hard to be excited about numbers, but I am. This is very positive.”

The budget that council approved did not include a 9.5-mill special assessment that the city will need in order to make ends meet, but that doesn’t need to be approved until later in the next calendar year to make it on the summer tax rolls.

That is something they assessed for public safety last year and will have to set again this year. 

The city is still dealing with revenue numbers that they haven’t seen in many years.

“I certainly don’t want to continue doing assessments,” Skotarczyk said.

So far, the city has cushioned residents from feeling the cuts, but if they don’t pass the assessment, the residents will feel the change.

“We thank the public,” Skotarczyk said. “This council, I’m sure, doesn’t want to keep levying assessment after assessment.

“We need to get our expenditures down to about $8.5 million,” he said. “We haven’t been there since the early ‘80s. We’re going to try.”