Employee raises, rate changes in Hazel Park budget for FY 2024

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published June 7, 2023

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes


HAZEL PARK — Hazel Park’s tax rate will decrease slightly with the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, due to a small change in the amount levied for economic development and the city’s Downtown Development Authority.

While the overall tax rate will decrease, water rates will slightly increase, from $13.24 per unit to $13.94 unit. One unit is 748 gallons.

“We are simply keeping up with increasing costs,” said Hazel Park City Manager Ed Klobucher.

There are also raises planned for staff — roughly 4% across the board.

“In this inflationary environment, Hazel Park has to be competitive to retain employees,” Klobucher said. “Most city employees are required to have licenses, certifications or degrees to do their jobs. Those skills are in high demand. We’re fortunate that we were able to negotiate fair contracts with all of our bargaining groups.”


Revenues and expenditures
The overall budget for FY 2024 totals $42.9 million, of which the general fund is $18.8 million. The Hazel Park City Council unanimously approved it May 9.

The general fund covers council and city manager expenses, part of police and fire services, public works, the city clerk’s office, the city attorney’s office, the city treasurer’s office, elections, recreation, senior services, code enforcement, animal control and more.

The end-of-year fund balance is set to be $3.9 million.        

The total millage rate for the city is 21.77 — the same as the total for FY 2023. This includes 17.3799 mills for city operations, 2.1642 mills for garbage collection, and 2.2259 mills for the library.

Residents are also taxed on special millages. This includes an additional 2.8 mills for the public safety special assessment, 12.5752 mills for fire protection special assessment, 1.9459 mills for DDA operations, and 0.1535  for economic development. The amount levied for economic development and the DDA were slightly higher in FY 2023.

The city collects $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value, multiplied by the millage rate.

For revenue, property taxes account for nearly half of the general fund at 48.9% ($9.2 million). State and federal sources account for 19.7% ($3.7 million), services fees for 12.7% ($2.4 million), licenses and permits for 8% ($1.5 million), and interest and other sources for 10.7% ($2 million).

The city anticipates more property tax revenue in FY 2024, due to rising property values. During FY 2023, property taxes brought in $8.9 million, about $300,000 less than the FY 2024 figure.

Most of general fund spending goes into police (35.9%, or $6.7 million), fire services (19.6%, or $3.7 million), general government (11.9%, or $2.2 million), retiree health and insurance (11.6%, or $2.1 million), and public works (9.1%, or $1.7 million).


Managing manpower
“We are almost at full strength, but it has definitely been a struggle,” said Hazel Park Police Chief Brian Buchholz, via email, when asked about police staffing.

He said that his department used to set deadlines for applications, in order to avoid being bombarded by applicants, but now there is a rush to review them before they accept work elsewhere.

His department also has to continually weigh whether vehicles and equipment should be taken out of service, or if it is still safe and cost-effective to repair them.

Finding the right balance has been key, he said.   

“Patrol is the backbone of the department, so that is always the main focus, trying to not let our numbers dip too much. Overtime can become a burden and takes a toll on the officers that have to work more to cover the gaps,” Buchholz said. “Our goal is always to try and retain our employees and find the best (officers) we can to fill the holes that we have, while providing the best services we can to provide a safe environment for residents, businesses, and those that travel through our city.”

Preparing his officers is another consideration.

“We have increased our amount of training and feel that is going to help us immensely, as we are a pretty young department,” Buchholz said. “We have some guys that are new to us, but we have a lot of experience from other departments. It takes some time to get used to a new department.”


Council thoughts
Hazel Park City Councilman Andy LeCureaux said it’s important to invest in talent.

“You want to keep good employees — you have good staff, and you want to keep it that way,” he said. “We would be happy if we could give our employees even more (than a 4% raise), but that’s not the reality of our budget. Right now, there is a lot of money from the American Rescue Plan floating around the state, but that’s not going to last forever. So, we have to look to the future.”

Hazel Park City Councilwoman Alissa Sullivan praised the work of the city’s finance director, Laci Christiansen, for presenting another balanced budget. She also thanked property owners and developers such as Ashley Capital, the group behind the Tri-County Commerce Center at the site of the former Hazel Park Raceway, a project that continues to yield dividends. Sullivan also said that the city’s cannabis ordinance has created a more favorable business environment.   

“With the constant cuts in state revenue sharing, seeking ways that cities can continue to meet their funding needs and goals is difficult, at best. Thankfully, our city has managed to do that again,” Sullivan said. “We’re constantly seeking ways to increase workable and livable spaces, and to bring more residents and visitors to our neighborhoods and businesses.

“There are also great tools for our city to stay on track for future balanced budgets,” she said. “The influx of federal money, to all cities, is not to be overlooked in the benefits it has provided us. We’re also very lucky to receive some great redevelopment grants this year and last — we hope to institute those updates and build-outs over the next few years.”