Madison Heights officials reflect on budget for FY 2022-23

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published July 13, 2022


MADISON HEIGHTS — Developing the budget is among a City Council’s most important work. With the finished budget now in effect, members of the Madison Heights City Council shared some thoughts on the challenges overcome, and what was accomplished.

“It’s an exciting time for our city,” said Madison Heights City Councilmember Quinn Wright, in an email. “We are ushering in an era of the most capital improvements in decades. What excites me most are the Civic Center project, including renovation of the library, a new larger Active Adult Center, and the Fire Station No. 2, reaffirming our commitment to public safety, and to the ‘south side’ of Madison Heights. Additionally, parks and recreation investments such as disc golf, playground upgrades and other enhancements will provide our citizens with noticeable improvements to the community and quality of life elements. 

“Another part of the budget that’s important was the focus on working with the schools to include school liaison officers for both Lamphere and Madison districts,” Wright said. “I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish with this year’s budget, and I look forward to seeing these capital improvements come to fruition “

Madison Heights City Councilman Mark Bliss agreed.

“Personally, I’m also excited that my peers adopted my initiative to create a special projects fund for major parks additions,” Bliss said in an email. “This year we’ve been able to set aside $50,000 for this fund, and we will add to it more each year, with this fund serving as a way to fund our portion of a matching grant for big new additions to our parks system.”

He said that uncertain economic times have made it critical to make each dollar count, which in turn has meant eliminating waste from the budget, improving operational efficiencies, and doubling down on the city’s five-year plan for long-term financial stability.

“That’s how we’ve been able to manage the city through previous economic challenges, and it will be how we get through this one,” Bliss said. “Much of our focus has to be on the things we’ve already committed to, like the Civic Center project, upgrades to Fire Station No. 2, and the parks improvements we’ve budgeted for. That said, we still need to be opportunistic and keep looking for any grants or public-private partnerships that could either help keep our city safer or improve our quality of life.”

He noted the city’s ongoing work improving its cybersecurity processes and tools, based on recommendations from the Information Technology Advisory Board, or ITAC.

“That way we can work to keep our city as safe from cyber threats as we do from traditional crimes,” Bliss said. “A single breach could cost millions that our city doesn’t have, so it’s important that we make that a priority in our strategic planning.”

Madison Heights City Councilmember Sean Fleming said that this is the first budget he has been involved with since joining the council.

“I felt the budget review went well. We spent the April 18 special meeting going over the budget down to the line-item expenditures,” Fleming said via email. “I’m very excited that we’re going to be working with the Lamphere and Madison school districts to provide school resource police officers. Another portion of the budget will be providing neighborhood improvement grants that will help eligible residents make needed critical upgrades to their homes.

“The biggest item I am excited about is that we are saving for a grant that will be used for a road project on John R Road, from 14 Mile to 11 Mile roads, fixing the road conditions that drivers encounter now,” Fleming said. “I also want to mention that our parks are budgeted for further improvements. From listening to residents of our city, I would like to upgrade our play structures from the current wood chip floor to a safer rubber surface for falls, and become barrier-free, which would help those with mobility issues, along with adding sensory play equipment.”

Toya Aaron, the newest member of the Madison Heights City Council, said in an email that many items in the budget will help the city grow by improving quality of life.

“Some of our parks are in desperate need of a facelift, and this fiscal year’s budget continues to address those needs by allocating funding for new park equipment and playscapes,” Aaron said. “The budget also addresses public safety, and with the addition of having two patrol officers in our high schools, parents and students will feel more at ease, knowing we are less likely to have an event such as those in recent news.

“Because the budget was well-prepared, I do not anticipate any difficulties,” she said. “I believe that if the council learned anything during the pandemic, it was to always prepare for uncertainties, and the budget was built with uncertainties in mind. I want my fellow council members to keep in mind that we represent the community at large. It is our responsibility to uphold the public interest and make decisions that affect the entire community, rather than any particular group.”

Aaron said she’s excited for the renovations at Civic Center Plaza and Fire Station No. 2.

“I know many of our seniors had concerns regarding the move of the Active Adult Center, but I believe the move will bring forth new opportunities for them to host more events, increase their overall community activism, and bring forth more volunteers,” Aaron said. “The AAC does a lot of great things for our city, and placing them in a larger space will give them the opportunity to do even more great things. I also want to continue to expand and bring forth more awareness concerning mental health, and would love to see a program geared toward that area of need.”

Roslyn Grafstein, the mayor of Madison Heights, said that the new budget continues to make public safety a top priority.

“If our residents and business owners don’t feel safe, it won’t matter how great our parks are or what resources and services we have at the library,” Grafstein said in an email.

The mayor described some of the challenges involved in this year’s budget process.

“Even though we expect revenues to grow just over 3% from last year, they will still be less than 80% of what they were in 2008, and our expenses continue to rise. As a result of this discrepancy, we must continue to be cautious about creating any new programs or positions that will create ongoing expenses. Instead, we must continue to keep the budget focused on our long-term strategic plan that will continue to move us forward,” Grafstein said.

“We will need to be looking for more funding opportunities from private-public partnerships. We also need to work more with other levels of government and our neighboring communities to see where we can share resources and provide complimentary programs that encourage economic development in our community as a whole,” she said.

The mayor said she sees a “great opportunity” for the city as an event destination where outside organizations can host free family-friendly events. She pointed to the Juneteenth celebration held by Madison Heights Citizens United, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and to the work of another group, the Memorial Day Parade Committee, as examples.

“With the new disc golf course at Rosie’s Park and the Fitness Court at Huffman Park, our parks have a lot to offer outside organizations looking for a great park to host an event in,” she said. “Most events hosted in other cities are sponsored by outside organizations, with the cities providing little to no funding but still reaping the economic benefits of increased foot traffic to their businesses. We need to encourage similar events that will bring foot traffic and awareness to our businesses.”

Grafstein said she’s also looking forward to the neighborhood improvement program that will offer home repairs, code enforcement education and public amenities to areas of the city that are most in need.

“So often there’s a misconception that improvement only comes in big expensive splashy packages, but really, money spent wisely on small improvements for everyday living will go a lot further,” Grafstein said. “I’m also excited to see the updates that are coming to our parks, and the improvements being made to make the area more walking and biking friendly.”