Budget aims to maintain service levels, quality of life in Madison Heights

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published June 23, 2021


MADISON HEIGHTS — The total millage rate will remain the same for the new budget that goes into effect in Madison Heights on July 1.

The City Council also continues to not levy the extra 3.36 mills of Proposal MH that taxpayers narrowly approved in 2019. The decision to not levy the tax increase is due to the financial hardship many experienced due to the pandemic.   

The rate will continue to be 26.2646 mills, which covers the general fund that supports police, fire, the court, general administration, parks, library, recreation, the city clerk and elections.

The millage rate also includes special millages such as neighborhood road improvements, solid waste, senior citizens, police and fire retiree benefits, the fire station bond, and the drain debt. The city collects $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value, multiplied by the millage rate.

While residents will see no change in the tax rate for those services, they will see a slight change in other areas. After three years of no rate increases for water and sewer, residents will be charged 4% more for water and sewer rates, and 1.44% more for stormwater rates. The stormwater rates are direct pass-through charges from Oakland County.

The overall budget for fiscal year 2021-22 weighs in at $55 million, of which $33 million has been assigned to the general fund. The city is planning to use $995,000 in fund balance. The current unreserved budget balance projected for FY 2021-22 is about $6.8 million. A large portion of this — $2.1 million — is already assigned for capital improvements.

No public safety positions are being added. Melissa Marsh, the city manager, said via email that the budget continues to focus on maintaining current public safety and quality-of-life services.

With regards to the latter, projects include the Civic Center toddler’s playscape ($75,000), the Greenleaf Park backstop ($40,000), the Ambassador Park tennis and pickleball court ($30,000), the Huffman Park Fitness Court ($50,000, now open), and funding for the first phase of a playscape at Rosie’s Park ($100,000).

There are also road projects including: Alger Street from West Cowan to Andover ($212,000), Barrington Street from Barrington to Lincoln to Cowan ($109,000), Alger Street from mid-Alger to Lincoln to Cowan ($109,000), Barrington Street from West Lincoln to West Cowan ($148,000), Alger Street from West Lincoln to West Cowan ($148,000), Brush Street from West Cowan to Andover ($120,000), West Cowan from Stephenson to Brettonwoods ($140,000), West Cowan Avenue from Alger to John R ($75,000), and Palmer Street from West Lincoln to West Cowan ($210,000).

The budget anticipates revenues of more than $32 million in the new fiscal year.

“The city is always looking for ways to save money and has written numerous grants. We look to all other funding sources before spending budgeted funds,” Marsh said. “When the pandemic started, the city took action to stop all unnecessary expenditures, including capital projects and furloughing non-emergency personnel. Those projects were postponed until the current budget for fiscal year 2022.

“We were forced to delay much-needed capital assets updates and repairs in facilities such as the library, Active Adult Center, City Hall, and parks during the recession,” Marsh continued. “Now almost 10 years later, we are trying to deal with the much-needed expenditures, and go through a detailed strategic planning and budget process each year to address these issues.

“In fiscal year 2022, two main focuses are being addressed: park assets and the consideration of relocating the Active Adult Center to the Civic Center Plaza, and connecting and renovating the library and City Hall,” she said, noting the total cost for all three buildings exceed $11 million.

Linda Kunath, the city’s finance director, said in an email that the new budget is balanced with revenues and expenditures that more closely resemble budgets prior to the pandemic. She noted that the unanimously approved budget will allow the city to maintain current services and staffing levels. The finance director also anticipates the city making adjustments as funding sources from other levels of government change during the county’s economic recovery.

“As (American Rescue Plan Act) funding opportunities are presented, the city will adapt the budget to best fit these strategic goals, which will benefit the community,” Kunath said.

The city manager said that the city’s measured approach in 2020 is paying off.

“Despite the challenging previous fiscal year, Madison Heights is in a stable financial position thanks to careful spending,” Marsh said. “The fiscal year 2022 budget is a continuation of our strategic plan implementation to focus on the quality of life for our residents, and much-needed capital  improvements and infrastructure. We are hopeful that funding from the (American Rescue Plan Act) and potential bonding issuance will supplement the budget in making this possible.”