Hazel Park budget aims to repair roads, give raises to staff

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published June 24, 2019

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HAZEL PARK — Despite a steady rise in home market values, current homeowners in Hazel Park will only see their city tax bills increase by about 2 percent in fiscal year 2019-20, which begins July 1. 

The average taxable value for a home in Hazel Park is about $27,445, according to figures from Oakland County. The average city tax bill is expected to be around $1,030. 

“When discussing average tax bills, it is important to remember that there can be variations in tax amounts based on the length of time a property has been owned,” said Hazel Park City Manager Ed Klobucher. “This is due to the interaction between the Headlee Amendment and Proposal A at the state level.”

Together, those two polices sharply limit the amount of revenue a municipality can collect from taxable properties to just 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.

The budget for fiscal year 2019-20 was unanimously approved by the Hazel Park City Council in May, weighing in at just over $39 million, of which nearly $15.4 million is for the general fund. The new budget is balanced and will not draw on reserves. The current fund balance is nearly $2,737,000. 

The city collects $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value, multiplied by the millage rates. The millage rates include operation costs (18.8021 mills), garbage (2.3414 mills), library (2.4191 mills), public safety (2.8 mills), fire protection special assessment (13.5198 mills), Downtown Development Authority operations (1.951 mills) and economic development (0.2432 mill).

While the city is hiring for the Police and Fire departments, the hiring is for open positions. No new staff positions are being added in any department this budget cycle, and no services are being added or expanded. There are also no plans to eliminate or reduce any existing staff positions.

There are a number of public works projects planned, including the reconstruction of north and south John R Road from Nine Mile Road to the Interstate 75 service drive, now underway, as well as from Pilgrim Avenue to Dequindre Road later this summer and fall, and from Woodward Heights Boulevard to Pilgrim Avenue to the I-75 service drive. 

“This year’s budget is very similar to last year’s, but a big change is the funding for badly needed road repairs,” said Hazel Park City Councilman Andy LeCureaux. “We were also able to give some long overdue increase in wages. We’re all just trying to maintain a tight budget going forward.” 

Added Klobucher: “The city of Hazel Park has finally begun the process of giving modest raises to our employees. This is very important for employee retention and quality job performance. Also, we are undertaking much-needed road repairs to our major streets. Hazel Park is currently in a very good spot, but challenges will always lurk around the corner.” 

Jeff Campbell, the city’s community development director, said the city continues to work on its local roads network while keeping a close eye on costs.

“While Hazel Park is progressing and undergoing infrastructure improvements, particularly the improvements to John R and Nine Mile (roads), the system of municipal finance is broken, and we still operate on a razor-thin budget,” Campbell said.

Klobucher echoed this, saying that while Hazel Park is more prosperous now thanks to new business developments, the city continues to be hamstrung by state policies.

“While our budget situation is better this year than in previous years, there are still systemic risks to Hazel Park’s future. Michigan’s system of municipal finance remains fundamentally broken,” he said. “Even though our property values are rising, our existing taxable value is capped by the interaction between the Headlee Amendment and Proposal A. Revenue sharing is a political football in Lansing.

“We have high legacy costs related to pensions, retiree health care and aging infrastructure,” Klobucher continued. “We have done a good job of offsetting those challenges with new developments and cost control measures, but those challenges are hardwired into Michigan’s inner-ring suburban communities.”

Call Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at (586) 279-1104.