Warren Mayor Jim Fouts discusses his proposed budget as he presents it to the City Council April 9.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts discusses his proposed budget as he presents it to the City Council April 9.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

Warren mayor’s proposed budget in the hands of the City Council

Public hearing set for April 23, full budget available for review on the city’s website

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published April 12, 2019

WARREN — With expenditures totaling $278,166,141, including more than $115 million from the general fund and nearly $89 million for the city’s water and sewer system, Warren Mayor Jim Fouts delivered his proposed budget to the City Council on April 9.

The city’s seven council members planned to meet with individual department heads April 13 and 15, after press time, to parse through their requests before adopting the budget and a recommended 6.6 percent rate hike for water and sewer charges, with or without changes. According to the city charter, that should happen at the first meeting in May. State law requires municipalities to adopt a balanced budget by July 1.

Fouts’ 45-minute presentation included a general summary of his spending plan for the coming year, interspersed with slides championing things the mayor said the city has done, is doing or will do under his administration’s watch. Hard and electronic copies of the budget were made available for officials and have since been released to the public with a detailed breakdown of the proposed expenditures.    

“I’m happy to report to you that we have good news in the budget. I think we have, No. 1, we have no increase for the city property tax rate. We have a continuation of all present city services,” Fouts said. “We have a balanced budget with a continual minimal use of the fund balance. We have major capital investments. Among the most important ones is we’re going to try to solve something about the flooding that took place in 2014 by having a detention basin, and we’re going to expand that.”     
Numbers included in the budget show a planned $37,776,523 in expenditures for water and sewer system infrastructure improvements. That will include the major capital investment for the new detention basin at the former Roosevelt Elementary School property on Stephens Road, between Schoenherr Road and Groesbeck Highway. In the works for several years, the basin is designed to hold up to 20 million gallons of stormwater runoff and, together with a new pump system, hopefully prevent flooding during the heaviest of rains.

If adopted, other capital expenditures would include three new ambulances, fire station renovations and Waste Water Treatment Plant improvements.

Fouts said the city plans to spend $28.8 million to improve roads in 2019-20. If approved, the list would include 12 Mile Road, from Ryan Road to Dequindre Road; 14 Mile Road, from Ryan to Dequindre; Hayes Road, from 10 Mile Road to 11 Mile Road; Hoover Road, from 13 Mile Road to 14 Mile Road; Martin Road, from Hoover to the ITC Corridor (west of Schoenherr Road) and from Schoenherr to Hayes; and Frazho Road, from Mound Road to Ryan Road. The budget also includes $600,000 in block grant street improvements and $7.2 million in neighborhood street improvements.

“In this budget I’m committed to investing major capital for fire, for waste treatment, for water and for our aging infrastructure,” Fouts said.

A review of the numbers from the full budget and the budgets adopted in years past showed a slight recommended increase in spending for public safety at $70,255,767. The city budgeted $69,091,547 for police and fire expenditures in 2018-19 and close to the same amount in each of the two preceding fiscal years.

Of the $2.5 million earmarked as capital project funds, $2 million will be used for the new Civic Center South facility on Van Dyke Avenue, north of Nine Mile Road. The complex will include a new library, ancillary city offices, community policing resources and a playground.

Fouts presented a slide that broke down the 6.6 percent recommended increase in the water and sewer rates. According to the mayor, factors affecting the increase include an almost 11 percent increase in water and sewer main replacements at a cost of $5.2 million.

Council members said little after the presentation, pending their looming meetings with administration staff. Councilman Keith Sadowski did later question the timing of the presentation, the arrival of a 278-page budget and the scheduling of the department hearings, just four days later.

“Most of us up here work full-time jobs,” Sadowski said. “We’re going to walk through it line by line, but you have better scrutiny when you have a weekend to go through it,” Sadowski  said. “That’s what ticks me off. I think we need at least 10, 12 days to review this.”

The morning after the meeting, Fouts responded to say that the budget is presented annually around the same time and that the hearings were scheduled by the City Council.   

Warren’s proposed 2019-20 budget is available for review online at the city’s website at www.cityofwarren.org. You’ll find it by clicking on the “Government” tab at the top of the page and selecting the “Mayor’s Office” link. Links to city budgets past, present and proposed are in the left margin of the page.

Residents will have an opportunity to address the council about the budget during a public hearing at the April 23 City Council meeting. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Warren Community Center at 5460 Arden Ave., west of Mound Road and south of 14 Mile Road.