City plan identifies six goals
During a study session prior to the regular Tecumseh City Council meeting on Monday, May 8, City Manager Kevin Welch led a review through the draft 2014 Strategic Plan. The council is expected to adopt the plan at a future meeting.
“There are six goals we want to achieve and within this plan we have internally identified some strategies and will be looking at how do we accomplish those,” said Welch. “Keep in mind, however, there are certain things you can’t do without money.”
The council members conducted a series of meetings in 2012 and 2013 with elected officials, employees and members of various city commissions. Dr. Joe Ohren, from Eastern Michigan University, served as a facilitator and helped prioritize.
The six goals included: A Positive City Image; A Strong Local Economy; A Vibrant Downtown; Effective and Efficient Current Services; Long-Term Financial Sustainability; and Sound Local Infrastructure.
Proposed strategies were identified that would help achieve the goals, and categorized as A, B, C levels, with some being activities that are expected of city staff and already taking place, some requiring a small amount of funding to achieve, and the final category requiring a larger financial commitment.
“We’re trying to identify areas in our infrastructure such as buildings, streets and sewers — all those things that are basically brick and mortar but generally require quite large expenditures for replacement or repair or upkeep,” said Welch. He pointed out that the city is fortunate to have a financing system through an expense line item called depreciation as part of water and sewer rates that help cover costs in that department.
“We have $1 million in the sewer fund and approximately $600,000 in the water fund, so we’re not so worried about those funds,” he said. “We’re more worried about things in the General Fund such as roads, storm sewers and buildings.”
In past years, the city has budgeted approximately $250,000 per year toward roads, and was able to obtain various grants to accomplish projects.
“Tim Bock, superintendent of our street department, has been able to capture as many grants as anybody can, but what’s happening is the amount of repairs we’re able to do is not keeping pace with the wear and tear on the roads, and as most everybody knows, this year’s harsh winter was really hard on our roads,” Welch added. “There has also been a slow-down on grant opportunities because of the economy.”
He said the bottom line was that in order to accomplish all the road projects in the city that needed work, approximately $9 million would be needed.
“What I would like to see is that we have between $250,000 and $500,000 going into various road projects directly or through some financing model where we would do different ones over a course of five years,” Welch said, adding that unfortunately, the city is never going to have a couple million dollars at any given time to spend on road projects. “When I look at our budget, I don’t see where you’re going to have that kind of money down the road.”
He said one of the strategies the council could consider would be to ask voters to approve a special millage, such as a dedicated road millage, to be used for street repairs or maintenance. Once approved, the funds could only be used for that purpose. A one mill increase would generate approximately $234,000 each tax year.
“There are other issues in the city as well, and if council wanted to address these, there aren’t a great deal of choices,” he said.
Welch also pointed out that approval of the Strategic Plan does not mean approval to spend money or commit to any individual strategy. To do a dedicated millage, council would have to approve taking the measure to the voters for their approval.
In another strategy, the city could pursue a possible Headlee Amendment override, and generate $239,453 per year with a one mill increase, and $478,900 with a two mill increase.
A potential strategy to accomplish long-term financial stability would be to finance waste pickup by requiring residential customers to pay part or all costs currently paid by the city. Currently the city pays $414,000 per year for the service. Potential annual cost per residential unit would be approximately $146 per year, which could be billed with quarterly water and sewer bills.
“By approving this plan doesn’t mean you’re approving a tax increase because you’re not,” said Welch. “But I think it’s a wise decision to explore our options.”
He said any move in the direction of considering dedicated road millage this fall would need to take place before August 12, which is the deadline for getting items on the November ballot.
“There’s only so much we can do with the amount of money we have in our budget to repair these roads,” said Welch. “I think if we make it through this year, people are going to notice if they haven’t already that we’re going to be limited to patching.”