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If you are a fan of all-things-Ypsi or if just like seeing people yell at City officials, then tomorrow’s third Town Hall Meeting is the place for you.
In an effort to get better informed about the City’s financial future, there will be a meeting in room 107 of the Towner Center to discuss how we can save money by collaborating with the County. Of all the Town Hall meetings, this one seems to be the most ethereal. When Washtenaw County says Ypsilanti’s financial crisis is not their fault, they mean it. Working closely with the County to save money is a good idea, but it’s not going to be our road to solvency. It probably doesn’t deserve a two hour meeting to itself, but we hope to thoroughly explore all of our options. Realistically, there should be a single question asked to the panel of experts:
What services do the County and City both provide that are a duplication of efforts and offer the potential for efficiency and cost-savings? Payroll? Assessing? Economic Development? Etc?
After that question is asked and answered, we can turn the floor over to Lee Tooson and Tyrone Wilson, and they can call Mayor Farmer and City Manager Ed Koryzno racists for the remainder of the meeting.
I’ve been to both of the Town Halls and can say with certainty that there hasn’t been a single decent idea. Some guy did come close to suggesting something though. He said budgets and staffing of both the Fire and Police departments should be untouched, DPW staffing should be reduced by 3%, and the rest of City Staff should be cut by 20%.
Okay. I’m game. Let’s see if this guy’s suggestion makes any sense.
I preface this state by saying the information I am using comes from City officials or the City’s web site. If it’s not correct, take it up with them, not me.
The City’s budget is $13.511M
The Fire Department’s budget is $2.237M
The Police Department’s budget is $4.479M
The DPW employs 26.75 people. The spreadsheet of City employee salaries that was distributed after the last meeting conveniently omits those of the DPW, but their entire bugest is $1.416M. In order to flesh out this guy’s scenario, we’ll assume a straight 3% cut in their budget (or $42K) bringing their new number down to $1.374M.
Summing those three departments, we get $8.09M.
Knowing the looming budget shortfall is $2.5M, we need to hack that amount (or 46%) out of the remaining $5.5M in budget.
Okay. So this guy’s plan wasn’t very good, but at least he tried. More importantly, he didn’t call anyone a racist in doing so.
Let’s try a more realistic look at cutting salary.
As luck would have it, Ypsilanti’s current head of the DDA is leaving to continue her magic with parking lots in Chelsea. Counting Social Security and workers compensation payments by the City plus fringe benefits associated with the position, the savings comes to $69,077.
Understanding that it’s fashionable to pick on the Planning Department, we’ll continue our cutting there. If we get rid of the two planning interns, we save an additional $29K a year. Taking the axe to two more members of said Planning Department, we can save an additional $106,642 bringing our total from the department to $204,719. That would still leave a Director and one Planner. I understand that it’s not an ideal situation and people would have to work harder, but the City would still have two capable employees with which to conduct business.
The Building and Ordinance Inspection Department employs six people. We could eliminate ordiance enforcement and save $47,419. It’s not a popular move, but if we consider that the type of ordinances the City has been trying to enforce lately are going to cost us more in legal fees, it’s a reasonable cut. More importantly, the Fire Department should be cross-trained to enforce ordinances by now meaning the current position is a duplication of efforts. The City could also get rid of the single meanest employee in all of City Hall by reducing the number of secretaries from two to one thus saving $49,034. For the sake of argument we’ll use that number, but I would guess that being part of AFSCME, the secretary with the least seniority would get the axe and the mean secretary would just get a job somewhere else in the building. Regardless, we just saved $96,453 from the Building Department bringing our running total to $301,172.
If we cut the City Manager’s office by one, we could save $70,583. That’s one of the more difficult cuts in my opinion, but that position is probably more of a luxury for a City on the verge of receivership. The running total is up to $371,755 or just 15% of the goal of $2.5M.
As a gesture of good faith, the Mayor and City Council could forego their salaries and save $40,695. It’s not a lot of money, but they could show us they feel our pain. We’re up to $412,450 in savings now.
The City’s Assessor is supposed to retire next year (a savings of $72,769). If we can have the County do our assessing and appraising, we could save an additional $42,824. Admittedly, we’d have to pay the County a fee for those services, but until the question of “how much” can be answered tomorrow, let’s assume zero for the time being. That brings the running total to a whopping $528,043.
Sticking with the idea of farming services out to the County, let’s have them do our payroll for us. We’ll keep the same assumptions we used for assessing and realize a savings of $42,829. The new total becomes $570,872.
I’m willing to try and make the argument that the positions I’ve recommended to be cut won’t impact the overall quality of living much. No doubt it’s going to impact it some, but you have to admit these cuts are on the low-risk side of the equation.
Two additional options that have been floated around are eliminating the DDA (saving $125K) and eliminating the subsidy to the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (saving $180K). The grand total is now $875,872. That’s not bad for a half an hour lunch. If I hadn’t brought such a large sandwich, I probably could have looked at the finer details like office supplies and the like, but I’m only willing to cut so much and a hot pastrami sandwich isn’t one of those cuts.
So what does this tell us other than we’re screwed? I guess it says that we need a combination of cuts and revenue increases. Up to now, no one has been willing to seriously look at a combination of both. I hope when the State appoints the emergency financial manager to oversee Ypsilanti’s receivership, he or she is really nice person.
I hope to see you all tomorrow.
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