By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON – Public safety staffing in Trenton may be subject to reductions if improvements to state funding and assessments aren’t soon made.
City Administrator Jim Wagner said the proposed budget that will be subject to a public hearing this week reflects continued declines in taxable property values.
“We’ve had a substantial reduction of our State Equalized Value which has made a significant impact on our ability to provide services,” Wagner said. “Our elected officials have been trying to provide services without raising the millage rate.”
The city’s proposed 2016-17 budget will be discussed at a public hearing beginning at 6:30 p.m. May 16 at City Hall, 2800 Third St. Approval of the budget will be considered during the regular city council meeting that follows the hearing, which will also feature discussion of proposed property tax millage rates.
The proposed budget features a general fund budget of $19,581,913, a $37,714 decrease from the 2015-16 budget. Mayor Kyle Stack said in a letter to council members that the shortfall resulted in reduced property values as calculated by state officials.
“The deficit is attributable to a net decrease in taxable property values of almost $50 million,” Stack said.
State-approved changes to property taxation accounted for $24 million of the reduction, and $20 million from a, “Michigan Tax Tribunal stipulation regarding personal property at the DTE power plant,” Stack said.
The city’s residential, commercial, industrial and personal properties combined for a total taxable value of $652 million, Stack said, compared to $684 million in fiscal year 2015-16.
The resulting decrease, Wagner said, could result in the loss of up to five police and fire employees as city officials struggle to present a balanced budget. The potential loss of employees and services was particularly frustrating as the city has shown a number of gains in recent years.
“We’ve had significant growth in residential property values,” Wagner said. “But we only get the inflation rate. The revised formulas from Lansing meant that the city lost money on commercial and industrial properties.”
Barring any changes – and resolution to long unsettled issues including Detroit Steel, the future of DTE and the Riverside Hospital complex – the proposed budget may leave the city maintaining a survival-mode mentality.
“We will have significant issues to deal with in the next five years,” Wagner said. “The city will look at how to provide services with a declining SEV.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)