22 Aug 2014
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Grosse Pointe Woods Council Approves Budget

Following about 90 minutes of public comment against the 2012/13 proposed budget, the Grosse Pointe Woods city council approved it unanimously without discussion Monday.

Grosse Pointe Woods Council Approves Budget

One after another, residents of took the podium Monday to detail why they oppose the proposed budget and requested the council do more to make appropriate cuts.

Their comments took about 90 minutes in total and then in less than two minutes, the council unanimously approved the $12.2 million 2012/13 fiscal year budget. The vote did not include Vicki Granger, who was excused from the meeting after alerting the mayor earlier in the day that she would be late or not in attendance at all.

The budget calls for the as well as .

Residents young and old opposed the proposed budget for a variety of reasons but the theme of the comments is that the budget still contains a lot of unnecessary spending that should be cut before asking voters to give more money to the city.

Jim Schultz, of Holiday Road, questioned commission budgets and the lack of detail provided by the Planning Commission as well as the Beautification Commission, each of whom are given $5,000.

He also shared his irritation with the $10,000 volunteer appreciation party--. After criticism about it last year, .

Nancy Hames, of Sunningdale, said --a law forcing taxes that surpass a certain amount allowed by a council discretion be approved by the majority of voters--is simply "a Band-Aid." She continued, "Do something to dig us out of this hole instead of digging out of our checkbooks."

Former Councilwoman Lisa Pinkos Howle also spoke against it and gave the council a detailed list of where cuts could be made in the budget without impacting services to the residents. Admittedly, they would likely impact employees, she said, but they would still have their jobs and health benefits.

She provided her suggestions by department, giving specific areas to cut and rationale for each. Among them are suggestions she's made in the past, including:

  • the council giving up their salaries which amounts to a collective $28,500 annually
  • travel and entertainment budgets for nearly every department
  • the attendance of the city attorney at planning commission meetings, which amounts to $13,000 annually
  • the elimination of one city clerk, an estimated savings of about $104,000
  • the elimination of some court staff and consolidating job responsibilities to one employee, an estimated savings of about $65,000
  • removing the mayor from the city's healthcare plan
  • elimination of saving vacation days by employees, an estimated savings of about $79,000

In all, her line item suggestions totaled about $671,500. Then she suggested that the city begin looking at employee pay. While most people have taken pay cuts and city officials have emphasized that city employees have not received raises in a few years, she said it would be appropriate to cut back in pay. Doing so, she said could up the amount of savings to more than $1.3 million, she said.

, spoke again this year. She urged the council to lead by example and give up their pay. She explained how the other Pointes, with the exception of the Farms, do not compensate their council members and even the Farms pays their council and mayor a very small amount.

After council's quick approval of the budget, the chambers cleared out as Mayor Robert Novitke and the council took a break. There was much chatter among attendees of their disgust with council's vote.

The budget has a $614,532 shortfall but the gap will be partially made up through tax revenue if the Headlee Override passes in November. One mill in the 2012-13 fiscal year budget is equal to $604,872.

If approved the Headlee Override will generate more than $1 million of revenue for the city in its first year. For a property owner, a mill is equal to 1/1000th of a dollar so for every $1,000 of taxable value a property owners pays $1 in property tax.

In addition to line item budget totals, some of the residents voiced their dislike of the ballot language for the tax increase, which does not contain the words Headlee Override.

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