The Dearborn city budget adoption meeting began at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at . Discussions among City Council members began with hopes to come to a vote by night's end.
Council President Tom Tafelski, who wasn't present at , presided over the budget adoption meeting despite the fact that he is recovering from pneumonia and mono. Tafelski said that after hearing Monday's public comments, he felt it necessary to defend his position on the council during Tuesday's adoption meeting.
Tafelski first addressed the big news of Monday night, which was that would close instead of .
"I think it was inappropriate to bring up the Lapeer Pool closing," he said. “It was in no way an attempt to close off the south end from recreation.”
Tafelski noted that in his view, the Lapeer Pool closure was a discussion–not a decision–and that bringing it up was a way to stir up the Save Our Pools group. Furthermore, the pool has already been cleaned and filled for the 2011 summer season, making the discussion a moot point, Tafelski said.
and pools are still set to close for the 2011 season, but there's "no scheduled demolition for any pool properties," said Mayor Jack O'Reilly.
Councilman Robert Abraham suggested that the city should work with Save Our Pools to try to ensure the long-term survival of Dearborn's small pools.
“Come Labor Day, don’t disappear," he told SOP members. "Get organized in a genuine fashion … in the form of a nonprofit organization.”
Beyond pools, the bottom line is that the proposed 2011-12 budget expenses stand over $6 million over revenues. That deficit would have been at $12.3 million if not for the pending sale of Dearborn Towers, Councilman Abraham pointed out.
Tafelski clarified that the leaf removal program is part of the city's garbage millage, and in the proposed budget, will not be eliminated. If the leaf program was eliminated, it would not free up general funds for other city services or facilities. Instead, it would only mean a lower garbage millage for Dearborn residents.
Tafelski also noted that keeping streets and yards clean would help fight the "creeping blight" problem he sees in Dearborn. Councilman Mark Shooshanian, however, suggested that limiting the number of leaf pick-ups by the city would persuade residents to bag or mulch their own leaves.
Cuts to District Court Budget
Councilman Abraham brought up the salaries and staff cuts at the .
"We’re not eliminating any positions for the sixth straight year," he said, adding that specifically, the court has only cut two full-time positions out of 34, even as the rest of the city staff have been slashed at much higher percentages.
Even as court staff have taken early buyouts from the city, several of the positions were refilled–a fact that Abraham said he didn't know until Tuesday afternoon when he looked into the issue.
"I'm partly surprised and partly shocked and I wish I had known sooner than I did know ... because I don't understand how that aligns at all with what I've heard in the past half hour (about the budget crisis)," he said.
Mayor O'Reilly responded that although the city pays for court costs, the state actually oversees the staff headcount at the court.
Abraham added that the court had overbudgeted by $50,000 in 2010 for part-time staffers and $10,000 from other expenses, but had realocated the funds elsewhere without the knowledge of City Council.
Abraham proposed that the city eliminate $117,000 from the court's budget, including $50,000 in part-time wages and over $60,000 in expenses, including $22,000 in off-site storage of legal documents.
Council President Pro Tem Suzanne Sareini, as well as Mayor O'Reilly, suggested that document storage was a necessity because of legal requirements of the service the city uses.
The council agreed to cut $60,000 from the court's budget, as well as to not fill the one staffing vacancy, estimated at $45,000. The document storage issue will be explored.
Councilwoman Nancy Hubbard asked about the plan to close the Snow Branch Library.
Mayor O'Reilly said that the library would be "decommissioned" and the materials moved to another library. However, the library will not close July 1 and could potentially reopen, pending a police millage that is expected to be on the November ballot.
“I don’t want to give the impression that a millage increase would mean that everything changes,” O'Reilly said, but added that budget outlooks moving forward would be greatly improved with a millage approval.
After several minutes of comment from the public and clarification on several points, two separate votes were held–one for an increase in parking rates and change in parking lot hours, and the other for the overall budget, including an increase in mills from 19.5 to 21.9 total for FY 2011-12.
The final 2011-12 budget will also include the closures of Snow Library, Whitmore-Bolles Pool and Hemlock Pool, as well as the elimination of 42 city positions. The closures may be temporary, pending future discussions about a millage increase. The leaf removal program will remain, but will be covered as part of the garbage millage, not by the general fund.
Both the parking measure and the budget passed unanimously, with Councilman David Bazzy adding that he hopes to see the pools remain open.