City expected to adopt slim ’10-’11 budget

By J. PATRICK PEPPER
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — The municipal budget next year will mean a tighter ship around City Hall — and for residents, higher tax rates, but lower tax bills.

The City Council was expected to adopt the 2010-11 budget after press time at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday. It would go into effect July 1.

But details already were laid out at a sparsely attended meeting at City Hall on Thursday. The meeting, which is mandated by the city charter, is intended to provide a forum for residents to provide input on and learn about the budget proposal.

Councilors Thomas Tafelski, Suzanne Sareini, George Darany and Brian O’Donnell were present, while Councilors Nancy Hubbard, Robert Abraham and Mark Shooshanian were not.

The first thing residents likely will notice is a 2.08 mill tax levy increase, from 17.50 to 19.58 mills. The increase is the result of plummeting tax revenues combined with ongoing debt obligations mostly related to the Combined Sewer Overflow project, city officials said.

Overall, residents’ tax payments actually will be lower than in recent years, because although rates are up, the property values that the rates are applied to have fallen. That point is illustrated in a city budget document, which noted that the city currently is getting only 86 cents to the dollar for a mill compared to 2008 formulations.

The same document points out that tax bills would be about $17 less on average in 2011 than they were in 2008.
The budget also featured several one-time maneuvers to eliminate $14.2 million in expenditures. Most of the those involved transfers from other funds into the general fund, or operational budget, as well as deferred capital purchases and changes to funding models for long term liabilities and asset replacement.

It also features the elimination of 28 positions through either attrition or layoffs. City officials said that only seven of the job cuts would result in layoffs.

“These are difficult times for the city – and the region – and there are going to be some serious challenges in the future,” City Council President Thomas Tafelski said. “But in making these necessary changes in incremental steps, the goal is to try and cushion the blow as much as we can.”

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