Pleasant RidgeJune 27, 2012
Pleasant Ridge’s property values expected to grow
By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer
PLEASANT RIDGE — For the second straight year, the city’s financial fortunes appear to be looking up.
At its June 12 meeting, the Pleasant Ridge City Commission unanimously approved a budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year. The $2.25 million general fund budget includes no layoffs or cuts to city services. The city will also be keeping its combined operating millage rate the same as the current rate of about 18.2 mills, as well as maintaining a healthy fund balance of over $610,000.
But the really good news lies in Pleasant Ridge’s property values, which are projected to increase for the second year in a row. The estimated taxable value for the city in 2012-13 is about $125 million, which represents an increase of about $1.4 million from 2011-12. Like most municipalities, property taxes are the city’s primary source of revenue.
As City Manager Sherry Ball told the City Commission, “We do monitor any decreases in property values, but Pleasant Ridge has been fortunate to have seen an uptick in the past few years. But obviously, we have to closely and carefully monitor that to know what our income will be and what we should anticipate.”
State-shared revenue levels have been a constant source of anxiety for cities in recent years, but Ridge officials have a positive outlook for 2012-13. They expect to receive about $220,000 from the state this year, an increase of approximately 2 percent from the year before. Still, as Ball pointed out, this total is still a reduction of over $150,000 from 2000-01, the last year that Michigan municipalities were fully funded.
Pleasant Ridge is saving money in 2012-13 through its fire protection and emergency medical services contract with the city of Ferndale, which, at $265,000, will decline by about 6 percent. Officials were also able to reduce expenditures for the city’s public works services — which are contracted out through the city of Royal Oak and a pair of independent contractors — by around 5 percent.
The city will once again be sending one of its police officers to the fire training academy this year in preparation for a potential switch to a public safety model a few years down the road. Staffing levels at the department will likely remain the same, although Ball indicated that the city may add another position in the near future.
“We will consider looking at hiring another part-time police officer in the upcoming fiscal year,” Ball said. “It’s about 20 hours per week or less, and we try to dedicate that officer to peak traffic times or special event nights so that we have extra patrols in the city.”
Pleasant Ridge’s only major expense this year will be the reconstruction of Maywood Avenue, which is part of its ongoing, 20-year infrastructure improvement project. The construction work is expected to begin shortly after July 4 and will cost the city about $475,000.
Other purchases include a new police vehicle and about $10,000 in upgrades to the heating and cooling system at the Community Center, along with other building maintenance. The center’s recreation assistant will also be leaving soon, but has agreed to stay on until city officials can find a replacement.
In addition to the 2012-13 budget, the City Commission approved a five-year capital improvement plan for the fiscal years 2013-17. It contains about $4.35 million worth of projects, which includes the aforementioned Maywood Avenue reconstruction, as well as construction work on Oxford Boulevard, Cambridge Boulevard, Norwich Road and Hanover Road. Other slated projects include an ongoing infrastructure study, sewer rehabilitation and lining, and playground resurfacing at Gainsboro Park and the Community Center.
The budget process this year was relatively stress-free for city officials, a fact that members of the City Commission chalked up to the consistently excellent work of Ball, Assistant City Manager and Recreation Director Scott Pietrzak, City Clerk Amy Allison, and Molly Goike of Plante Moran, who provides the city’s financial accounting services.
“On April 9, we spent quite a few hours at a commission workshop going through the budget, and we had a tremendous amount of questions that went with it,” explained Commissioner Frank Rubino. “So if it seems like we don’t have any questions tonight, it’s because we’ve already spent a lot of time on this. Sherry and her staff did an outstanding job and were able to answer all of our questions to our satisfaction. We just want to make sure as a commission that we’re spending money wisely.”
Mayor Ralph Castelli agreed. “A question that we’re often asked is, ‘How is the city doing?’ because they wonder how we always seem to adopt the budget without the angst of some of the other cities around,” he said. “And what Commissioner Rubino just said about Sherry, Scott, Amy and Molly is a good deal of the reason for that.”
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