Employee vacancies causing budget problems to mount

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – Employees have quit or retired early and potential layoffs loom as the city’s budget is seemingly bursting while overspending takes place.

Fire Chief Mark Hogrebe, 50, retired July 9 after 18 years with the department, following on the heels of Finance Director Kim Kleinow’s announcement that her last day would be tomorrow before she starts a new job as Grosse Pointe’s finance director and treasurer. She has worked for Allen Park for the past 2 1/2 years.

“I made some good friends and put forth my best effort,” said Kleinow, an Allen Park resident who said she made the move for personal reasons. “I’m going to miss the people.”

The changes came a week after 16 other city employees took early retirements, including the Fire Department’s grant writer and its only two captains.

Kleinow said the Fire Department has a lot of work to do restructuring during negotiations, but would not likely make any new hires to fill the vacancies.

“I would assume they’re not going to because of budget constraints, but that’s in negotiations,” she said.

Kleinow said she didn’t know about Hogrebe’s retirement until his last day, and had no idea when Mayor Gary Burtka and the City Council would appoint a successor.

The vacant positions in the Fire Department led to another problem for the city. After spending $200,000 or more in overtime pay in both 2008-09 and 2009-10, the city budgeted for just $5,000 in overtime for 2010-11 in an effort to shave down its budget. Although the empty positions may save the city money on salaries if they are not filled, more than $26,000 was spent on overtime pay in a single week earlier this month.

Additionally, a payment for nearly $444,000 to Southfield-based Real Estate Development and Investment Co. – better known as REDICO – for its management and operation work on the Studio Center was approved Tuesday, but the city has only $232,000 in available funds. The shortfall is more than $211,000, and officials say it cannot be paid off through bond funds.

City Administrator Eric Waidelich and Burtka did not respond to messages left throughout the week seeking comment for this story.

(Contact Chris Jackett at cjackett@bewickpublications.com)