Warren council hears mayor’s budget plan

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published April 25, 2016

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WARREN — Investments in infrastructure and a commitment to keeping public safety services intact highlighted the proposed budget that Mayor Jim Fouts presented to members of the Warren City Council earlier this month.

Fouts addressed the council in-person just before their regular meeting on April 12, where he laid out his proposed $215 million total spending plan for the 2016-17 fiscal year, an amount that now includes the city’s water budget and just under $105.8 million in general fund expenditures.

“The budget in general, for the most part, is status quo,” Fouts said later. “What we’re trying to do ... no tax increase in the general fund budget, but a slight increase for water because of mandates.”

In his remarks, Fouts told the council that the budget includes no plans for a tax increase beyond the requested voter renewals of the city’s 4.9-mill public safety millage and the 2.1-mill levy for residential street repair. Both renewal requests look set to go before Warren voters on Aug. 2.

Despite the expiration of a federal grant that paid the costs to employ 18 firefighters over the last two years, the mayor said he remains committed to keeping public safety manpower intact. In fact, Fouts also said the city plans to put more police officers on the streets.

“This year, we added four new police officer positions. Police Commissioner (Jere) Green and I know the No. 1 way to combat crime is to put more troops on the road,” Fouts said. “These new positions will be taking calls for service. They will not be specialized units, or have desk jobs.”

Fouts also laid out a list of proposed infrastructure improvements and equipment expenditures for the coming year.

“The single most important thing is we’re investing in our infrastructure,” Fouts said. “We’re making capital improvements in the infrastructure of the Water Department that will help alleviate problems with flooding, things of that nature. We’re investing in a fire engine. I want to make sure that our Fire Department continues to be No. 1.”

Other planned improvements include road rehabilitation projects and water line replacements along 12 Mile and 14 Mile roads; upgrades at the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant; new library computers and election equipment; and vehicles for the collection of refuse and recyclables.

The mayor also addressed a recently announced proposal to construct a new municipal facility near Nine Mile and Van Dyke.

Fouts said previously that the combined “mini” City Hall, police station and library complex would be constructed on city-owned property in the city’s Tax Increment Finance Authority District, and that it would serve as a catalyst in the “forgotten” neighborhoods of south Warren.

The mayor also said there would be no salary increases this year, and that the city’s fund balance would remain largely intact, despite the need to use part of the “rainy day fund” to fill a 3.9 percent gap between general fund revenues and expenditures.  

Fouts further lamented what he said was the loss of $7.5 million in revenue as a result of the voter-approved Proposal 1 personal property tax phase out for small businesses and industrial manufacturers  in 2014. Because of that, he said, property tax revenues in Warren decreased from 64.2 percent to 61 percent of the city’s total revenues over the last year.

But the mayor went on to applaud robust business investments in Warren, which he said were projected to total $2.5 billion, including a $1 billion investment at the General Motors Technical Center alone.

The new developments, Fouts said, would contribute to a projected increase of $4 million or more in revenues from building and inspection fees.

According to state law, members of the Warren City Council must adopt the budget no later than June  30.

Earlier this month, Councilman Robert Boccomino said he would “absolutely” support the looming millage renewal votes, and he welcomed the plan to construct a new city facility in his home district.

“I’m excited about it. It’s in my district, District 5. We definitely need excitement and new things down there, and in all of Warren,” Boccomino said. “Ultimately, I’d like to see a combination-use facility in my district.”

You can view the mayor’s complete budget presentation to the council at vimeo.com/163249848.

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