Officials note positive changes in Woods’ budget

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 28, 2015

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WOODS — After struggling with some financial uncertainty since the start of the recession several years ago, Grosse Pointe Woods’ budget has city officials excited about the city’s current financial position.

Like many cities, Woods made cuts in recent years to its staffing levels. The city reduced full-time staff from more than 100 employees to 80 during the previous five years. 

The city continued to provide essential services to the community, but now officials say that they will be able to add some improvements.

Councilman Richard Shetler wanted to recognize City Administrator Al Fincham and City Treasurer/Comptroller Dee Ann Irby for their work on the budget.

“This budget, I think, is one of the best ever,” Shetler said.

“I am extremely happy that through the steps that we’ve taken over the last several years, we are now … right-sized,” he said of the staffing levels and ability to provide services to the community.

“This pretty much tells you how the city should be running from a fiscal standpoint,” he said.

“Since the Great Recession, every single municipality has cut back,” he said.

“We’re able to start doing things again, initial steps,” Shetler said.

Mayor Pro Tem Art Bryant had positive comments about the budget and recognized those who worked it.

“I’m very pleased with this year’s budget,” he said. “I think we’ve done an excellent job at managing the money we have. We all need to recognize that we’re not totally out of the woods yet.

“We’re in good shape even though we have a ways to go to get back to where we were,” he said.

In the Public Safety Department, additions include three new vehicles through lease-purchase plans. The Public Works Department will be getting three new vehicles, as well as new equipment to fill potholes.

The Building Department and administration each will be getting a new vehicle.

“This still leaves us with several vehicles that need replacement, but we are being conservative in purchasing only those listed, as they are the worst of the worst,” Fincham said. “Other vehicles will be requested next year to continue to rebuild our aging fleet.”

Lake Front Park will see some improvements due to the stability of the city’s finances. For example, the city is going to reopen the second baby pool at Lake Front Park.

“It has been closed for the last three years due to budget cuts,” Fincham said in an email. “Renovation has started already with our DPW doing preliminary demolition to save money before the vendor comes in to install the new liner.”

Another positive change at Lake Front Park will be repaving the parking lot, which Fincham said has been neglected for years. He noted that this is not being funded through the road millage that residents passed.

Also at Lake Front Park, two tennis courts will be resurfaced.

In future budgets, the city plans to continue making infrastructure improvements.

Fincham said they plan to work on maintaining a healthy fund balance.

“This budget was approved after much input from the Finance Committee, mayor and council, appointed officials and department heads, as well as the staff all working together to present a balanced budget while still being able to do certain things that we have put off for the last several years,” Fincham said.

Finance Committee Chair and City Councilman Todd McConaghy wanted to recognize Mayor Robert Novitke in regard to the budget.

“The Finance Committee and the City Council as a whole owe a debt of gratitude to the leadership of Mayor Robert E. Novitke,” McConaghy said in an email. “As chairman of the Finance Committee, I rely on Mayor Novitke’s institutional knowledge and sound advice with regard to strategic planning. Mayor Novitke is an invaluable resource to the city of Grosse Pointe Woods.”

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