2012 Budget Blog #1

by Jaime Greene on February 12, 2012

Agenda for the February 13, 2012 Budget Workshop

 

To close the pool or not to close the pool that is the question? Well it is one of the questions on the table.  On Monday February 13, 2012  the Richmond City Council will engage in the first of many budget workshops. This meeting is completely open to the public and I invite you to attend. With the City’s 2012-2013 projected $400,000 budget shortfall, we have to cut from our current budget. Citizen opinion is most certainly welcomed.  The pool among other items will be discussed at Monday’s meeting.  As stated in a previous blog our Workshops are the “meat and potatoes” of deliberation.  It is an opportunity for Council to delve into the issues and discuss them.  By discussing them in this venue an environment is created for transparency and the product is a more cohesive Council.

 

Disclaimer

***The comments contained in this blog are my opinion alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Council or City Administration. One of my campaign promises was to be transparent and to show transparency. I am offering here my views and ideas to be deliberated on paper. I can not promise that any of them will be addressed as I do not set the agenda.****

 

Government should never be oppressive to its citizens!  We choose to live in a city for many different reasons, but the main reason is shared services. I like the idea that my street is plowed when it snows, that water is pumped to my home and the waste is taken away without me having to worry about it. It comforts me to see a patrol car drive on my street and see the officer wave to my children. Though the sound of the sirens pains me to hear that someone is is trouble, I am comforted in knowing that we have a top notch team that is on their way to the rescue.  With all this said if the cost of a service/event/activity that the City provides does not give its dollar for value then they should be reconsidered and possibly eliminated.
Belows are some ideas that have been presented by City Administration and given to Council. I do not necessarily agree with all, but as in the past I will gladly give you my current 2 cents worth.

 

Ideas are numbered as follows:

 

1. Cost recovery policy:
Council was approached with the term “Cost Recovery”. It was not clearly defined in our briefing, which I believe is a good thing.  I believe is it a current “buzz” word and is used loosely. I believe that Council needs to establish a definition and a policy of what “Cost Recovery” means to Richmond.

MY DEFINITION of COST RECOVERY: “Each department has to account for every dollar
spent and how they intend to pay for it. There should be a balance in cost to benefit.  Asking questions:
does the cost to the city show a product, are we getting value for what is spent. Development of set
standard of fees and services that fill a need/service to the community, but is not an expense to
the tax payers.” (I still may “tweak” this as I evolve as a Councilor)

  • Every department adopt a cost recovery policy: I am not looking for grand explanations.  For some line items the answer may simply be the General Fund because “XYZ”. I have seen some great cost recovery policies like that of Portland, Oregon so I know it is potentially possible. http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?a=68098&c=36767
This was posted by a woman who is employed in Big Rapids where a very small traffic incident may turn out to a costly issues for non residents.

The idea is not to be a burden but to be held accountable for money spent and if possible recover cost in any way possible.

 

2. Adopt 80%/20% split of health care costs with employees:
This to me is a must! We are currently exempted from the State mandate of employee heath care cost share. This was decided in a vote in December 2011.  It was during that vote I made the statement that I would vote for the exemption one time.  I further stated if health care costs were not addressed I would not vote for the exemption again.   I am happy this was presented on our agenda.  If we applied the 80/20 cost share with employees we would save in fixed costs $102,078 and up to $30,000 on the deductible (currently we pay for the employees deductible they would then have to share 20% of that cost. The number varies because they may not use all or any of the deductible)

 

3. Look at different Heath Care Plans:

We currently pay $649 for Single, $1,556 for Married, and $1945 for family A MONTH for our employees in health care expenses not including the deductible we pay for. I believe there are other providers and insurance companies out there that will provide excellent coverage at a better rate.

 

4. Contracts:

I believe we should re-open up the contracts to address the issue #2 I posted. We will skimp by one more year but I am not sure we can make the full 3 years. (Don’t hate just keeping options open)

 

5. Address the pool:

Pool costs over $100,000 to operate and the Revenue is $25,000. That is a loss of $75,000 to the General Fund. I do not believe raising prices for admission is the solution. For the pool to thrive something different and creatively unique would have to happen. I was previously an advocate for a splash pad which would have brought in potential revenue and a zero entry addition to the pool which would had brought in different clientele. This argument I do not believe was ever heard…but that is the past. $75,000 folks to run the pool…ask yourself how many households does it take to finance the operation of the pool?

 

6. Personnel:
Furlough Day – the idea of closing the office down and not paying employees for that day.  Potential cost savings of 5 Furlough Days is $19,119 if no vacation days are used to supplement the day off. (I believe placing a vacation clause would be a fair option as well, not as much savings but then the employee has more choice)

 

7. Readjust our TIFA capture:
TIFA is an acronym for Tax Increment Finance Authority.  A TIFA pays for specific projects within a very specific geographic location. (here is a link for a paper for further explaination) The money captured from the TIFA tax already goes to the City, but it is only allotted for projects within the TIFA district. Readjusting the “capture” funds would potentially add funds to the General Fund; however, this could potentially lead to funds lost to the city that would then go to the County and Community College. TIFA is quite complicated and if you have specific questions on this issue please contact me directly.

 

8. Go line by line to trim the FAT:
This is my idea alone and think it is time to justify what each line items does and where the money goes to!

 

In conclusion: It is always present in my mind “THIS IS NOT MY money, it belongs to the Residents of Richmond”.   I must, it is my responsibility to, and my duty to, always take that into consideration. It was stated to me, “we are not in the business of making money”, no we are not, but we are not in the business of losing money or wasting it either.

 

I did not like the writing this! We are in difficult times but we also must face reality. These are ideas, thoughts, I am placing them out there for folks to dialogue and to voice their opinion on. To provide residents, business owners, employers, employees and parents to come out and voice their opinion on the pool and all the other items potentially on the table. To me nothing is ever set in stone until it is signed.  I am open to hear your opinion and welcome it!

 

In service,

Jaime Elizabeth Greene

 

 


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephen Thorpe February 13, 2012 at 11:37 am

I know this has come up many times but what exactly is the cost savings to Richmond by letting the Sheriffs Dept take over Police concerns in town & cutting the RPD. Some will find this very unpopular but its choices like this or the burden will end up on the taxpayers.

Reply

Jaime Greene February 15, 2012 at 12:31 am

Mr. Thorpe,

A set number has not been given to the City, as we have not asked for one. There are also many variables to consider as well when it comes to cost. The sheriff does actually cost more; I am using the price other communities are paying for their sheriff to compare. The savings would be in our legacy cost (covering pension and health care for retirees), and administration of a department and its employees. Currently I do not believe (not 100% positive) we have any retirees that we are paying for. In addition another savings could be is the possibility of not having to pay for a building to house dispatching and police.

Yet, there are still so many other variables to consider; event coverage, code enforcement, contracting our all of our dispatching, residents would have to drive to Mt. Clemens for any business that is normally conducted at the station, not having same quality that is currently provided. At this time Council did not believe we were in a “dire” hardship to even consider contracting with the Sherriff. We all agreed there were many other areas to look at before making a huge change like this. Personally I know there are areas I would reduce before this would need to be investigated further.
I appreciate your comment and feedback!
jg

Reply

Joan Smalley February 14, 2012 at 9:32 am

Please don’t close the pool. I do look forward to Joselyns water aerobics each summer. There must be a cheaper way to maintain it!

Reply

Jaime Greene February 15, 2012 at 12:35 am

Ms. Smalley,

I will certainly take that into consideration. My children enjoy her classes as well. If you have any ideas on how to reduce the cost of maintaining the pool I am certainly open to them.

Thank you for leaving a comment. I appreciate all feedback and welcome it.
jg

Reply

Cliff February 17, 2012 at 11:25 pm

What about city support for the Good Old Days? That certainly can be cut. Other citys and towns require festivals provide their own security, etc.

Reply

Matt March 5, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Cliff, the festival has a website you can ask them directly, instead of Mrs. Greene. I do know that the city’s support of Good Old Days is a small percentage of what it used to do. The festival has absorbed a lot of those costs while still providing the city’s residents a high level of enjoyment.

Reply

James February 18, 2012 at 9:48 am

This is more information that I have ever heard what is going on in the city. Thank you for keeping us updated. How much does it cost the city for events like the Good Old Days?

Reply

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