By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON – Although specific numbers won’t be made public until next month, City Administrator Jim Wagner said the expected audit of municipal finances is expected to reveal continued stability.
Having endured periods of declining revenue and staff reductions, Wagner said officials are better positioned to prepare for future challenges – notably the recent and anticipated loss of tax revenues from DTE Energy.
“Income is flat,” Wagner said of projected tax revenues. “But we’re in the green, not the red.”
City budgets have stabilized in recent years, but cost-cutting measures, shared services and other efficiencies have leveled out. Wagner said the anticipated audit from Plante & Moran will reflect a continuation of efforts to maintain municipal programs without running into a deficit.
“We’re providing the same services with 70 fewer people than we had 10 years ago,” Wagner said.
Prospects of a positive audit reflect a stabilized economy, and Wagner said energies which previously went to budget-cutting, adjusting to layoffs or searching for revenue will, he said, be put more and more toward economic growth, especially commercial properties to replace the loss when DTE Energy begins closing several plants in 2020, including Trenton Channel.
“The big issue will be the redevelopment of properties,” Wagner said.
Dormant acreage including the former Riverside Hospital and the industrial Detroit Steel site remain top city priorities to address, along with several downtown sites.
“We’re beginning to tackle those more and more,” Wagner said.
The city has also begun – through grants, private investments or reallocations – long overdue upgrades to public buildings including the police and fire stations and Kennedy Recreation Center.
A presentation before city council of the Plante & Moran audit is expected during the regular meeting beginning at 7 p.m. Nov. 2.
(James Mitchell can be reached at email@example.com.)