Sterling HeightsJanuary 25, 2013
Mayor: Public safety millage could hit November 2013 ballot
By Brad D. Bates
C & G Staff Writer
Sterling Heights Mayor Richard Notte said it’s getting harder to be a public servant, but he remained adamant that helping his city through hard times is worth the tribulation.
While outlining the fiscal concerns facing his city in 2013 and beyond at the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Heritage Luncheon at Cherry Creek Banquet Center Jan. 23, Notte said he’s committed to doing “whatever it takes” to keep Sterling Heights a “premier community.”
“It’s just not as much fun being in public office as in days past,” Notte said, noting that the downturned economy has taken a lot of the luster off work in the public sector. “But we’re going to do everything we can to turn things around and keep Sterling Heights a premier community.
“We will continue to be that, and we will focus on cost-saving methods and whatever it takes to keep services as is. It don’t look too good for 2013, but we will meet those challenges head on.”
Notte said part of “whatever it takes” could be a request for a public safety millage on the November 2013 ballot.
“One of the biggest things our City Council is going to be looking at is a public safety millage. It might be a reality this coming November,” Notte said. “You just can’t continue to give the same services with less money coming in.
“It hasn’t been decided just yet, but if we do, we’ll have to educate the residents, have some town hall meetings and tell them why we have to do it,” Notte added of the possible decision to request a millage to specifically fund police and fire department budgets.
“We just can’t continue to do this with less and less coming in. A big task in 2013 is going to be that public safety millage because we want to keep from laying off more police and fire.”
Notte commented that the challenges in 2012 were a harbinger of what could be continued hardships in 2013.
“All our challenges were really economic challenges — everything associated with money,” Notte said when asked what the three biggest challenges faced by his community in 2012 were.
“Revenue coming in depleted, money being spent is at the same cost or sometimes even higher. It’s really hard to balance a budget with less money coming in and just as much if not more money going out.
“The last budget was the first time we’ve ever laid off any people in Sterling Heights, and the first time we’ve ever laid off any police or fire in Sterling Heights,” added Notte. “We laid off four police officers, and we laid off eight firefighters.”
Notte said most of the budgetary problems were caused by drops in revenue, as funds from local taxes and shared money from the state declined and are set to fall further.
“The state balances their budget on the backs of cities, townships and villages,” Notte said. “In 2001, the city of Sterling Heights got $5.3 million (from the state). In 2012, we got $600,000. That’s a pretty big difference, and we still give our community the same services that we have been giving.”
And shrinking budgets isn’t a problem unique to Sterling Heights.
“We’ve already gone down 28.5 percent, and I’m sure we’ll pass 30 percent,” Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan said of her city’s revenue losses. “When you take out almost one-third of the revenue you’ve used for so many years, the hurt is big.”
Noonan and Notte answered questions from the Chamber Board Chairman Clark Andrews with Shelby Township Supervisor Richard Stathakis at the event.
All three leaders agreed that 2013 will not likely offer too much of a recovery from recent economic woes.
“There’s no question about it, 2013 is going to be a challenge,” Stathakis said. “Revenues are going to be down to their lowest point, so we’ve got to be creative.”
Despite those challenges, though, Notte said he believes his community can ultimately weather the storm because of its wealth of resources.
“What businesses look for in a community is for their workers,” Notte said of why he believes Sterling Heights remains a quality environment for growing business.
“They want a community that has a stable government. They want low taxes. They want school districts, and we have two great school districts. We have shopping. We have recreation. We have theaters, restaurants, we have golf courses.
“Sterling Heights has everything to offer, and I think businesses come in for all those reasons. Sterling Heights has a little bit of everything and quality.”