Tonight, Dearborn residents will have their say.
A public hearing on the fiscal year 2013 budget, at which residents will be given a chance to voice their opinions and ask questions about the budget, is set for Monday, May 14, at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at .
Join the discussion from the meeting or at home LIVE on Dearborn Patch. We'll be live reporting from the meeting, letting you know what issues residents are raising, and how city officials are responding.
The conversation begins here at 6 p.m.
Update, 6 p.m.: Dearborn Finance Director Jim O'Connor gave the public an overview of the budget, summarizing the city's 16 previous budget meetings.
The proposed fiscal year 2013 budget includes a $4.76 million increase over 2012's budget, standing at $105,361,819.
6:10 p.m.: Kristyn Taylor spoke on behalf of Save Our Pools, presenting a new plan to council.
"We recognize there are a lot of hardships that you're dealing with today," Taylor said. "We know that if something isn't done soon, it's estimated that within the next five years or so, we could go bankrupt."
SOP explained that they have abandoned the idea of , and have instead moved on to a plan that would ask residents to vote on a dedicated millage that would specifically fund the city's eight pools.
The millage would cover maintenance, operation costs, capital improvements, and would eliminate the need for residents to buy pool tags, according to SOP's plan.
"We would unite the city with something everyone would choose for the city of Dearborn," Taylor said. "Our plan .. brings together all interests we've heard from (the city and residents) ... and we would keep the pools open."
6:16 p.m.: David Good spoke on behalf of the Dearborn Historical Commission, focusing on the issue of renovations believed to be necessary at the .
"At this time last year, the museum was looking at the prospect of having its budget zeroed out," Good said, noting that he was happy to see . "We're still of the same opinion as we were a year ago about the need for renovating the Quality Inn building that shares a wall with the museum offices."
Good asked that the city would fund renovations, and leave operating costs up to the museum after that point.
"Not everybody (on the commission) feels that way, but a majority does," Good added.
Councilman David Bazzy suggested some short term fixes, and said that he believed the property in front of the museum would appreciate in value with the completion of the Dearborn Intermodal Train Station in 2013.
The suggestion focused on creating an "artistic space" in the area, which was an idea Good said the commission had spoken about with the Artists Society of Dearborn.
6:23 p.m.: Second-grader Luke Gellar asked the council to keep the pools open, and thanked them for
"Luke, we're trying," Council President Tom Tafelski said. "We'll try to keep them open for as long as we can, but there's a lot of other things ... that help make the city run and help make it so that when you grow up ... you'll want to stay in Dearborn."
His mother spoke about how the issue of Dearborn's pools has driven her to get more involved in city issues.
"It's because of the pools that I am up here," she said. "When I got home from (teaching), I found myself reading the City Charter. It's started from the pools and it has evolved into the budget."
6:33 p.m.: Kristyn Taylor spoke again, this time on behalf of Dearborn Residents for Accountability–a new group that is focused on looking closely at budget and other city issues, and making an effort to understand them.
Taylor explained that the group has submitted a series of questions to council about the budget and budget process. The council responded that they will get answers to those questions and discuss them at an upcoming budget meeting.
6:37 p.m.: Resident and business owner Ray Trudeau spoke about the issue of money being spent on public safety–specifically police and fire staffing levels.
"I don't know how we can have a meeting on the budget when our budget is out of balance," Trudeau said.
"This can't continue. This will bankrupt this city," Trudeau said. "I can't understand how this came before this council to put it on the ballot and it was voted down."
6:41 p.m.: A resident brought up the .
City Attorney Debra Walling explained that the compensation changes were due to the City Charter, which holds that department heads see an increase in pay based on completed union negotiations.
The 2011 gross earnings included lump sum payments based on pay increases to all full-time employees that were applied retroactively.
"It was a very distorted view of the salary," Walling said. "That's been in our charter for a very long time."
The resident replied that the charter should be changed.
"The charter is the document passed by the voters and we have to live with it," Mayor Jack O'Reilly explained. "It could be amended."
Councilman Bazzy suggested that taking that out of the charter could hurt the city's ability to retain high-quality department heads.
"We have difficulty–believe it or not–filling some of these positions because of competition from the private sector," Bazzy said.
Councilman Bob Abraham said that he agreed that there were things in the charter that should be changed, but reiterated the fact that any changes have to be approved by voters.
The most important of those changes, he suggested, focused on getting a larger percentage of the city's budget focused on city services, not charter mandates.
“I don’t like that all the things I have to do for the community ... I have to do more and more with less, at a time that the community really needs more,” Abraham said.
6:55 p.m.: The public hearing was adjourned.
Correction: This article originally stated that the pools millage proposed by Save Our Pools would only cover the six small neighborhood pools. That is incorrect. The millage, according to SOP, would cover all eight community pools in Dearborn.