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Madison Heights budget savings turned into grants for citizen boards

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published February 13, 2020


MADISON HEIGHTS — In the last budget cycle, Madison Heights City Councilman Mark Bliss identified savings that were then set aside as potential grants for the city’s various citizen boards. Now those grants have been awarded for quality-of-life initiatives.

“I believe that each and every tax dollar the city is entrusted with is important, so each year I go line by line through the budget to identify potential savings and get clarification on the purpose for that spend,” Bliss said. “In the past I’ve been able to help divert savings to things like bathrooms in our parks, and last year I was able to identify and reallocate increases in office supplies and some differences in contract actuals to fund almost $10,000 into this program.”

Each quality-of-life board was invited to submit as many project proposals as they wished, with the understanding that only around $10,000 was available to fund all of the projects. Each board deliberated over multiple meetings and voted on which projects they would submit. The applications were compiled by a staff committee, which then made a recommendation on which ones to fund.

The boards that participated were the Arts Board, the Environmental Citizens Committee, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and the Library Advisory Board. The Arts Board was awarded $2,000 in seed money to fund an annual arts event, and $800 towards placing interactive art in the parks. The Environmental Citizens Committee was awarded $1,500 to plant trees on Moulin Avenue. The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board received $2,300 to fund a Movie in the Park program this summer. And the Library Advisory Board received $2,500 to add items like tablets to the media available there.

Bliss said that “impact per dollar spent” was the main point of consideration. The $1,500 allocated to the Environmental Citizens Committee, for example, actually equates to more than $8,000, due to the availability of matching grants the city was able to attain with the $1,500.  

He explained that the process began with essentially one question: If you had less than $1,000 to spend, how would you make a difference in the city?

“Their answers did not disappoint, and the energetic discussion it provoked will no doubt have a major impact on the city’s strategic plan,” Bliss said. “These ideas came from residents, and will be implemented for our residents.”

Mayor Brian Hartwell praised the initiative.

“Every year, City Council and the city manager fine-tune the annual budget. We understand the budget down to the penny. This year, Councilman Mark Bliss proposed a smart tool to capture the pennies from the savings on city contracts. We will redirect those savings to quality-of-life projects that have been difficult to fund since the recession,” Hartwell said. “The mini-grant program empowers the residents on our boards and commissions to provide services to the public. There’s no question that Madison Heights has one of the most transparent budget processes in Michigan. The residents are actually choosing how to spend their tax dollars on the community we love.”