Budget presentation aligns with goals
Posted on 04/18/2024
Hands on calculator. Photo by PexelsCity Manager George Lahanas and Finance Director Sandi Wiktorowski led the budget presentation for fiscal year 2025 at a special meeting of City Council on April 11 at City Hall. The public hearing on the budget will be held May 20 at 7 p.m. at City Hall. City Council must approve the FY 2025 budget in May; the fiscal year starts July 1.

Lahanas said the new budget format provides a “big-picture” overview of how the city is meeting its strategic goals in six key areas. He said the city is in good shape financially.

Among the details explained, the property tax base accounts for 68.5% of the city’s revenues. The city only keeps about 1/3 of the tax dollars collected from property taxes. The balance is distributed to the counties, schools, library and others. Lahanas said the pension legacy cost is on a trajectory toward being 120% funded, which will free up funds to spend on city priorities in the coming years. The retiree health care portion of the legacy cost is already well funded.

Department heads presented an overview of their department, ranging from staffing levels and responsibilities, to projected budget and operational expenses, as well as plans for any special equipment purchases. Certain departments also reported on debt service and grants.

The Finance Department plans to implement a Cloud-based system for BS&A software, which includes property tax information and other municipal data, payroll support, and portals to apply for permits and inspections, and make payments for taxes and utilities. In addition to finance, budgeting and tax services, Finance Director Wiktorowski is also responsible for IT oversight, with the work being done by Northville Township IT Dept.

The City Clerk Office, led by Mike Smith, has seen its operation costs increase, largely due to implementing new voting laws that expand the time period for voting and other measures. He hired a deputy clerk in 2023, who recently completed his first of three years of training to work toward becoming a certified clerk. Overall training has been instrumental in keeping up with the new election laws. With three elections in 2024, including the presidential election in November, the department must staff those elections and has been partnering with Oakland County to provide an early voting site. The department is seeking to move Precinct 2 from Amerman School to Hillside School to provide better parking, space and technology needs, and accessibility.

New Community Development role – Lahanas explained this new department, which will be headed by a full-time Community Development director. The new arrangement will replace the role of a planning consultant, who conducts in-depth reviews of documents pertaining to redevelopment, ordinances and HDC applications. In addition to these responsibilities, the new director will also pursue economic development for the city, and be a liaison to redevelopment activities. The building official role is set to remain a consulting role, with the added responsibility of overseeing the Downs redevelopment project.

The Police Department has 13 police officer positions, an administrative assistant, a new school safety administrator (currently a shared expense with the Northville School District); and a shared embedded police clinician, whose role is funded by a grant through Northville Township. Police Chief Al Maciag said the lateral pay incentive has helped in recruiting officers to the department. New cameras and radar will be installed in the department’s six patrol vehicles in 2025, as well as computers for mobile data.

Fire Department Chief Matt Samhat noted that expenses were up over last year, in part, due to making firefighters’ pay equitable with surrounding communities. The department expects to receive a $400,000 grant for self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), which are body-worn gear used to aid breathing while in smoke-filled areas. Additional purchases in FY 2025 are hydraulic rescue tools and thermal imaging cameras. Samhat also proposes to hire an assistant fire chief.

Department of Public Works (DPW) sees its budget increase by 82 percent from the previous year, largely due to water and sewer projects. DPW Director Mike Domine said his operating expenses come from seven budgets. Currently $60,000 is allocated for sidewalk repairs in 2024; which is an increase from previous years of $35,000. Domine said GFL’s 5-year contract from 2022 will have a rate increase in 2024; as such customers will see increases for garbage collection and recycling in the new fiscal year. The city provides brush collection year-round as part of this service.

New proposed projects are:
• Road and sewer infrastructure projects
• Repaving the parking lot adjacent to the Fire Department, library and Community Center
• Making a new sanitary sewer connection to an existing Oakland County line to eliminate a collapsed line at Cady and S. Main and a sewer line that crosses the river.
• Erecting a new salt-holding building at the DPW yard
• Update the PASER study and road assist management plan (road quality, including core samples), to be conducted by OHM.

Allen Terrace plans upgrades to apartments
Housing Director Jolyn Gismonde said there are several projects in the works at Allen Terrace, among them: plans for new flooring in the 100 apartments, along with new vanities (to replace stand-alone sinks), and gradually replacing the appliances. The building will also install two new elevators. To enhance outdoor space, the facility will add a new awning and cement pad to establish a pavilion. She noted that residents are excited about these improvements, which helps them accept the rent increase that takes effect on July 1. New identity signs are being installed outside the building.

DDA Director Lori Ward noted the Downtown Development Authority was created in 1978 to halt a decline in the downtown business district. She said the DDA and its Economic Development Committee are supportive of new enhancements downtown, and will contribute $225,000 annually to resurface Main Street from Center to Griswold. In addition, the DDA is contributing $100,000 to the Ford Field gateway project.

The DDA had more funding in 2024 due to an increase in TIF revenue and sponsor contributions, which offset concert and special event expenses. The DDA is spending more on maintaining the Social District year-round. Bonds issued for street improvements will be retired this year, freeing up $170,000 for other uses. This amount is part of the $225,000 mentioned above. The DDA recently bought a used truck from the Fire Dept. primarily for landscaping maintenance and is looking to add a second truck to assist the seasonal groundskeeping staff primarily with watering.

Six-Year Plan – Wiktorowski presented a Capital Improvement Plan (aka six year plan) to Council showing how city priorities will be funded – a combination of allocating funds from various budgets and detailing grant funding. Major expenses include the water and sewer infrastructure project, new equipment and the Ford Field gateway and plaza. When finalized and approved by Council, the plan will become an addendum to the FY 2025 budget. Due to many new projects underway in the city, Wiktorowski said this is the first time the city has spent more than $10 million from the General Fund.

Brownfield Redevelopment Authority – Lahanas covered the explanation for this entity, noting that two projects have been approved (for Foundry Flask and Downs redevelopment). Of the latter funds for the Downs river daylighting and public areas, $850,000 of the ARPA funding will be spent in 2024 and the balance of $1.65 million will be spent in 2025.

Among the questions that Council members asked were:
• Council Member Laura Genitti: Will the Historic Property Match Fund program return to help businesses in the Downtown Business District restore properties?

Lori Ward said they are looking into reviving the program, noting that it requires submitting a grant application to the state and, if approved, the DDA would help fund the improvements.

• Council Member John Carter: When will the culvert on High Street be repaired?

DPW Director Mike Domine said administration is applying for funding and grants for future replacement of the culvert. The culvert will likely be reconstructed into a bridge. The OHM PASER and road asset management plan will also provide recommendations.

• Council Member Laura Genitti: When will the 8 Mile bridge will be completed?
Domine said Wayne County is responsible for 8 Mile Road from Taft to the city limits. The deck of the bridge should be replaced in 2024 and then the entire length of 8 Mile will be resurfaced from the bridge to Haggerty.

• Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Moroski-Browne: When will additional crosswalk improvements be made?

Domine said some of the sidewalk funding will be used to create new crosswalks, likely at Main and Linden and on High St. New “Yield to pedestrians” signs have arrived and will be installed at various intersections.

Council communications
Mayor Brian Turnbull advised Council members to reserve these dates:
• The morning of May 13 for a groundbreaking at the Hunter Pasteur land (formerly the Downs) (by invitation only)
• May 14, 6 p.m., joint meeting of City Council and Northville Township Board of Trustees at 6 p.m., closed session, to discuss a land purchase.

There was no public comment.

View the meeting video here.