Budget includes water rate hike, millage drop

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published April 27, 2016

After listening to an overview of the proposed $138.3 million 2016-17 budget at an April 22 study session, the Troy City Council agreed by consensus to proceed and consider the budget as submitted.

The proposed 2016-17 budget includes a decrease in the city millage rate, from 10.5 mills to 10.4 mills, and it includes a fund balance of over 27 percent. 

Troy City Assessor Nino Licari said homeowners’ taxes will be reduced, but the actual reduction to the average homeowner was not available at press time.

Next year’s proposed budget features $800,000 in building improvements to City Hall, including a customer service welcome center at the east entrance — where a city staff member would greet visitors and direct them or help supply needed material — at a cost of $65,000 for staffing; an $80,000 redesign of the city’s website and $30,000 in LED lighting at City Hall that is projected to save over $8,000 annually in energy costs.

Councilman Ethan Baker questioned the $800,000 renovation to the east entrance of City Hall for the customer service center.

“It’s a lot of money for something that we’re really looking for a person to give direction as a starting point,” he said. 

Referring to the proposed $200,000 in the budget to complete a market study to develop the Civic Center campus, Baker said the plans for City Hall could change.

“Is it better to start with staffing, figure out how to house a person there … a table and folding chair, (someone saying) ‘Welcome to City Hall. Where can I direct you?’

“To me the bigger need is the person to answer the questions, not a big, beautiful entrance to the facility,” Baker said.

“We allocate resources based on the strategies that everybody came up with at a retreat, and what that does is focuses our mind to do these things,” said Troy City Manager Brian Kischnick. “We talk about this all the time. Are we throwing good money after bad? … Our start is going to be to just have somebody down there before we do the whole entrance because the Civic Center study is so important first. … We don’t have to hurry the entrance. But we certainly want it in the budget and funded. It still would have to come back to the council and we would have a game plan, what’s going to happen to this building.”

The 2016-17 proposed budget includes $20,000 for recycling receptacles at city parks and other city facilities, and $1 million earmarked for a trail to link the Troy Civic Center campus near a planned dog park on Livernois Road, north of Big Beaver Road, to the city trail and pathway system, for which $750,000 in matching grants would be sought.

Councilman Dave Henderson questioned the $1 million earmarked for the nonmotorized trail near the planned dog park, which is scheduled to be completed this year as part of a planned unit development for an assisted living center adjacent to the park.

“I can’t see spending $1 million until we get foot traffic,” he said.

Mayor Dane Slater said that residents have said that a trail and pathway system is at the top of the list of things they want.

“This is the most logical place (to start),” said Councilwoman Edna Abrahim, referring to the proposed trail’s proximity to the Civic Center.

Slater said the consensus of the council was to move forward with including the $1 million for construction of the nonmotorized path near the planned dog park in the budget.

The proposed budget includes $200,000 for a concept plan for future development of the Civic Center campus, and $550,000 to enhance the pedestrian crosswalk at Big Beaver Road, near the Automation Alley business technology park.

There is just under $8.8 million in the proposed budget earmarked for roadway improvements — $5.68 million for major streets and $3.07 million for local streets. The budget includes $3.1 million to construct Fire Station 4 and $3.6 million for sewer improvements. Major road improvements would come to South Boulevard, from Livernois Road to Rochester Road, and to Dequindre, from south of Beaumont Hospital, Troy, to north of M-59. Work would also be done on Wattles Road, from Rochester Road to John R Road, and on the Livernois and South Boulevard intersection.

Water rates for the city of Troy have increased by $1.3 million, or 10.8 percent, and sewer rates by $644,000 or 4 percent, and the new proposed budget for 2016-17 reflects that. Under the new proposed budget, the average Troy residential water customer would pay just under $249 for water and sewer services per quarter, an increase of 6.9 percent, or  just under $16 per quarter.

The proposed budget has stipends of $75,000 for the Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center and $100,000 for the Troy Historic Village, an increase of $25,000 over last year.

The Troy Nature Society and the Troy Historical Society took over funding operations of the facilities in 2011.

“The fundamental point is that they are assets of the city,” said Kischnick. “The historical society has taken on a monumental task.”

The historic village’s annual budget is about $400,000, and the nature center’s annual budget is about $250,000.

“To go forward, we need more support,” said Loraine Campbell, executive director of the Troy Historic Village. “We have volunteers working 30 hours a week.”

“These are gems in our community,” said Councilwoman Ellen Hodorek.

“I believe they (the historic village and the nature center) are doing everything they possibly can to get revenue,” Slater said. “There’s a strong argument to help them out a little bit more this year.”

“It sure seems they are doing everything they possibly can,” said Troy Mayor Pro Tem Ed Pennington.

“I think we’re making a very wise investment,” said Abrahim. “It’s money well spent.”

The council planned to discuss the budget at its April 25 meeting and to approve it at the May 9 meeting.

Copies of the budget may be obtained at the Troy City Clerk’s Office, 500 W. Big Beaver Road, and it can be seen online at www.troymi.gov.