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Categorized | Voices and Views

From the City Manager’s Desk

By Christine Burns, City Manager Cedar Springs

City adopts 2011-2012 budget

Is anybody else sick of the saying, “We are doing more with less [money]?” As public budgets tighten, we aren’t doing “more with less” we’re doing less with less. Services are reduced, staff is reduced and community events are reduced.  Most taxpayers are doing the same with their personal budgets—weighing “wants” versus “needs.”

Since 2001, interest revenues on investments have decreased by almost $47,000 while our revenue sharing from the state has decreased by nearly $145,000.  That equates to a $192,000 reduction in funding over a 10-year period of time.  Couple that reduction with double-digit increases in health care costs and we find ourselves in the midst of a budgetary nightmare; cuts are now taking place in areas that were previously sacred.

Over the course of the past few months, City staff, as well as City Council, have wrestled with recommendations and decisions that will impact the lives of residents, business owners and City employees.  These certainly aren’t decisions that were made in haste or without a lot of thought about the long-term ramifications.

City staff had the daunting task of bridging a shortfall of approximately $55,000 in the City’s 2011-2012 fiscal year budget. While some folks might say that $55,000 isn’t a huge shortfall by comparison to what some other Michigan communities are facing, by proportion, it’s big for us; especially when you take into consideration that we have been steadily trimming our budget over the course of the last four years. We haven’t broadcast our budgetary struggles or declared “woe is us.” Council has balanced the budget as needed and made do with what we had.

As the cost of plowing your streets increases and the electricity to pump your sewer goes up and chemicals to treat the water increase, we are faced with the question of how to absorb the costs. There comes a time when the City can no longer absorb the cost and it is necessary to increase utility rates to ensure a sound infrastructure. Again, more tough decisions that affect every elected official’s pocket book, as it does yours. For the first time since early 2007, residents and businesses will see an increase in their water and sewer bill. We were able to maintain the City’s water and sewer system for more than 4 years without a rate increase. Regrettably, the time has come when we can no longer avoid those tough conversations.
All budget workshops (as well as the subsequent adoption of the budget) are open to the public. Attendance at budget workshops and public hearings is minimal, if non-existent. Budget workshops are where the discussions take place regarding estimated revenues and potential expenditures. In 2011, Council actually held two budget workshops. The first budget workshop was specifically for the purpose of hearing a presentation from the City Engineers regarding the City’s water and sewer infrastructure while the second focused mainly on the General Fund budget. Knowing the complexity of our budget challenges, Council realized that everything could not be addressed in one full day and elected to hold two budget workshops, giving the public ample opportunity for input. If you have concerns about where your tax dollars are allocated, you are invited and encouraged to voice those concerns during those forums. In 2010 and 2011 one person attended the public hearing for the adoption of the City’s budget.
In 2011, Council continued its movement towards 100 percent transparency by posting all agendas, accounts payable lists and agenda reports on its website for public dissemination. Public notices for all hearings are published in the local paper, on the City website (both on the calendar and on the main page) and on a bulletin board at City Hall.  Many events are posted on the City Facebook page [We Celebrate Underwear.]  Visit the city’s website at www.cityofcedarsprings.org to download the City’s complete 2011/2012 fiscal year budget and to view the 2011/2012 fiscal year cost savings measures.

Questions regarding the budget may be directed to City Manager Christine Burns 696-1330 x 104 or Finance Director Linda Lehman 696-1330 x 101.

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