Council approves Alpena budget

ALPENA – After hosting a public meeting before its regular meeting Alpena Municipal Council voted to adopt the 2014-15 budget Monday. The new budget faces a $655,000 deficit, but as in years past, council and city staff are confident the deficit won’t be as large when the fiscal year ends.

The budget will be made whole via funds from the city’s fund balance, which sits at about $2.6 million or 27.34 percent of the general fund. After the $655,000 is removed it will drop to 18 percent of the general fund. City policy requires the fund balance sit between 10 and 20 percent, so the 18 percent fund balance is still considered healthy.

Mayor Matt Waligora said having a large deficit is worrisome, but he is comfortable with where the fund balance will be at for 2014-15. He said people pay taxes with the expectation they will get a return on their investment in the city.

“I appreciate the fact that we are going to below the 20 percent threshold, but we have to remember that people live here and they want decent parking lots and parks, they want their brush and lawn picked up. That’s why I’m not too concerned about bringing it down, as long as we’re spending that money on things that improve services for the residents.”

The budget consists of council’s goals and a breakdown on each department’s spending and revenue. It contains all of the salaries, as well as a the city’s capital project plan. Clerk/Treasurer Karen Hebert said the budget is available on the city’s website and residents can get an idea of the overall health of the city in it.

“We have a list of projects, some of the change because of funding issues, but at least people will have an idea of what we’re planning,” Hebert said. “There is also a list of all of the grants that we have received and the projects we have completed with those. Each department has also done a narrative of what they want to accomplish next year. All of this can be very helpful to the public.”

The city’s budget runs from July 1 through June 30. It can be amended after each quarter. Hebert said it is possible the fund balance could rise again after the state addresses personal property tax and revenue sharing issues.

“I think in the end we will end up better than 18 percent. We are still hoping our revenue will turn around a little,” Hebert said. “It could go wither way, but I’m just kind of confident that with everything we have done the last few years that we can come in better this year. I think we are starting to walk towards positive.”

In other business:

* council approved the payment of bills totaling $281,161.

* first reading of an ordinance amendment to chapter 62 over retirement benefit computation was read. The second reading of the amendment will be at the next meeting June 2.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com.