Warren Mayor Jim Fouts delivered his proposed $245 million budget, which included $108 million in general fund expenditures, to the City Council on April 10.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts delivered his proposed $245 million budget, which included $108 million in general fund expenditures, to the City Council on April 10.

Photo by Brian Louwers

Fouts: Budget addresses infrastructure, retirement commitments

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published April 13, 2018

WARREN — Making needed infrastructure improvements, continuing an array of city services and shoring up the city’s commitments to its retirees were the focal points of the proposed budget presented by Warren Mayor Jim Fouts April 11.

Echoing the tone set during his State of the City speech last month, Fouts painted a sunny picture of Warren’s financial state when he delivered his 2018-19 spending plan to members of the City Council and assembled administration officials. In discussing the proposed $245 million in spending for the coming fiscal year, Fouts offered an upbeat assessment of what taxpayers could expect to see for their money going forward, in light of what they’ve experienced in the past from his administration in terms of city services.

“There is no increase in (the) city tax rate. There is a continuation of all present city services. We have a balanced budget with minimum usage of that balanced budget, and we have a fund balance, and we’re only going to use that for a few key things, including a detention basin,” Fouts said. “I’m committed to one thing: That’s major capital improvement for our aging infrastructure. Hopefully, that will keep the city on the right track.”

The mayor’s recommended expenditures would include more than $108 million from the general fund, nearly 40 percent of which would pay for the Police Department. The Fire Department amounts for the next biggest chunk at just over 22 percent. The remainder of the funds would cover general government operations, public services and the 37th District Court.

Fouts said balancing this year’s budget would require a transfer of $3.1 million from the city’s unallocated cash reserves or “rainy day” fund.  He said the city would have an official total of $45.7 million in the fund balance after that transfer, and a total of $23.2 million in unallocated available cash reserves. Those numbers would include a “strategic” contribution of $18.6 million in retiree pension and healthcare payments, and last year’s fund balance transfer of $7.2 million to level the budget.

Another $13 million held in reserve from a bond issue would be used to fund Warren’s detention basin project, which the mayor said was undertaken, along with the installation of relief sewers, to reduce the potential for basement flooding. Fouts called the construction of the approximately 16-million-gallon detention basin “the most important” part of the proposed budget.

“As you know, our infrastructure is aging,” Fouts said. “As mayor, I’m committed to making capital investments needed to keep our residents safe. The most important thing, I feel, is planning for the next flood.”

Fouts recommended funding $18.1 million in major road improvements over the coming fiscal year. That would include Ryan Road between 11 Mile and 13 Mile roads, and Hoover Road, between 11 Mile and 14 Mile roads. Another $6.8 million in neighborhood street repair is planned.

In addition to its accumulated taxes and nearly $14 million in shared revenue from the state of Michigan, Warren is projected to receive more than $4 million in building inspection fees over the coming year and $800,000 in rental inspection revenue, according to the mayor. That’s in addition to a projected $500,000 in property inspection maintenance charges for snow removal and grass cutting, rodent control, towing of abandoned vehicles and other cleanup charges.

The administration’s projections showed Warren should generate $3 million for emergency medical service transport through the Warren Fire Department in the coming fiscal year. Fouts said the program had generated $23.6 million since it was brought back under his leadership in 2010.

The Warren City Council was expected to hear about the budget in detail from individual department heads during a weekend session April 14. A public hearing will likely be scheduled in the coming weeks, after which council members will begin the process of adopting the budget by June 30, in accordance with state law, with or without changes.  

You can view the full presentation on TV Warren’s Vimeo site at vimeo.com/264267321.