Millage rates rise, but ’18 budget not yet approved

By: Kristyne E. Demske, | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 14, 2017

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Although City Council members approved millage, water and sewer rates for 2017-18, members said they could not approve the 2018 fiscal year budget before getting the answers to questions they had asked over two days of budget hearings in April.

General fund revenues are budgeted at $38 million for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, and expenditures are budgeted around $37 million, leaving a surplus of almost $1 million for the first time in a few years. 

“This is a status quo budget (with) no changes in total personnel (and) no reduction in services,” Finance Director Doug Haag said June 5.

With $121,611 cut from the budget since April budget hearings — with increases in boat well rentals at Blossom Heath, eliminating the purchase of a zamboni, waiting to paint the bathhouse at Blossom Heath and other changes — the surplus $1 million budgeted, if realized, will be added to the rainy day fund, which is projected to be $9.7 million as of June 30.

City Council unanimously approved total millage rates of 24.4089 mills for residents in 2017-18, which is lower than the published rate of 24.7 mills because of the Headlee rollback factor of 0.985. Residents paid 21.2278 mills in 2016-17, but voters approved a 5-mill increase to the police and fire millage in 2016, which accounted for the increased total. The police and fire operating millage increased from 1.9736 in 2016-17 to 4.9736 in 2017-18 because of a Headlee rollback that took it to 4.925. 

The police and fire pension millage rate, included in the total, also increased by 0.5 mill.

But when it came to adopting the budget, City Councilman Pete Rubino pointed out that City Council had not received answers to questions like how much it would cost to hire a new fire inspector and if that position needs to be filled, and whether more personnel is needed at the library.

“I don’t know if I’m for or against any of those, but I’m very disappointed that we did not address those going forward,” he said. 

He said that with construction ongoing in the city, he wants to make sure there are no delays in businesses being able to open because they are waiting for inspections.

“I don’t know if it’s true or not, but we were supposed to address these issues and we did not address these issues. I would like to know if that’s something we ought to be budgeting for before I vote yes or no,” he said. 

Councilman Ron Frederick said it was “unsettling” that council hadn’t received the information it had requested, and other council members agreed.

“Not that I would agree with adding any positions at this time is a prudent thing to do ... (but) that information, since it was requested, should have been easy enough to calculate and provide,” Councilman John Caron said. 

Rubino made a motion, supported by Frederick, to hold off on adopting the 2017-18 fiscal year budget until the June 19 City Council meeting to give city administrators time to answer all of the questions that arose during the April budget hearings. The motion passed unanimously.

“Ultimately, I’m not saying I’m for or against anything until I look at it,” Rubino said.