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Thursday, 18 October, 2007 11:24 PM
Livonia City Council seeks to remove public safety director in new budget
BUDGET COURTESY OF THE CITY OF LIVONIA
The front page of Livonia's city budget for 2007-08 as sent from Major Jack Engebretson to the members of the city council.
The Livonia City Council has added a resolution to its budget for 2007-08 removing the position of public safety director. The official in that seat is set to retire at the year’s end.
The budget for the city has been submitted by Finance Director Mike Slater. It was discussed at two city council meetings. Now, it will go up for a vote on October 24 by the city council for adoption.
Peter Kunst has held the title of public safety director for the last four years. His responsibility is to oversee the police and fire chiefs. The city council will have the final say on the public safety director job when it votes. If the public safety director is deleted, the city will have an extra $100,000 in revenue.
“We don’t see the value for the position,” said city councilman Brian Meakin. “The money will be re-allocated. He’s going to retire at the end of the year. The previous mayor created the position.”
Property taxes are expected to decrease by a half of a percent with the new budget. However, the city is expected to bring in more revenue from property taxes due to an increase in housing values. The city predicts to bring in just over $30 million in property taxes for 2007-08, an increase of $1 million over the previous year.
One of the reasons for the lower property tax is because the 1990 Street Improvement bond is being paid off. Next year, the last payment will be made. The biggest project included in the bond was the Merriman Road railroad grade separation. It provided an underpass for cars to keep driving while a train passes.
The city tax rate for Livonia is set at 11.5149 mills. To simplify, it is the number of dollars a taxpayer must pay for every $1,000 of assessed value. In Livonia, the average assessed value of a home in is $106,000. That homeowner will pay $1,220.58 for their 2007-08 property taxes (split into two payments). For 2006-07, the same individual paid $1,226.24. The new budget will save that homeowner $5.66 due to the slight tax decrease, if their home value remains the same.
Livonia’s property taxes are considered the lowest of any city in Wayne County. The top five cities with the lowest tax rates in Wayne County are Livonia, Romulus, Westland, Grosse Pointe Farms and Grosse Pointe Park.
“We have an efficient well-run city,” says Livonia Treasurer Linda Grimsby. “I became treasurer in 1999 and it’s been that way ever since.”
Livonia will receive $54 million in general fund revenue. Fifty-seven percent comes from property taxes alone. Another 16 percent comes from the state. The remainder of the revenue originates from licenses, permits, grants, interest, court fines and charges for services.
The state of Michigan has cut its funding to cities statewide due to its budget shortfall. Livonia will receive $242,000 less revenue from the state, according to the latest budget. The city has had to make some cutbacks including a hiring freeze, limiting capital outlay and out of state travel. Those cutbacks have been lifted within the past year, according to the city treasurer.
“It’s an outstanding budget,” said councilman Meakin. “We’re still able to do the capital improvements we need to this year. We’re in pretty good financial shape.”
There will be no new taxes for the 2007-08 fiscal year. Licenses and permits fees are not going to change. Revenue from licenses and permits are expected to be lower because of less construction, according to the city’s finance director, Mike Slater.
“We did a lot of tough cuts since 2002,” Slater said. “We reached a point where expenses are in line with revenues.”
Livonia has also cutback by doing without Christmas decorations. There will be decorations however they won’t be financed by the city. “We get private contributors to pay for it. It’s not in the budget,” said councilman Meakin.
Livonia’s water and sewer department has purchased a $4,000 mail opener, according to the latest budget report.
“We process 140,000 water bills,” the city’s finance director said. “We can stick the whole stack in. We have one but it’s old. This one has a lot of maintenance issues.”
In the budget, three golf courses are set to receive improvements. Those courses include Whispering Willows, Fox Creek and Idyl Wyld. “A lot of it is grass cutting equipment. Some renovations to the pro shop at Idyl Wyld,” Slater said.
The city will purchase a new ambulance to improve its response time to emergencies. Two fire stations will also be renovated – the main station on Farmington Road, and another at Seven Mile Road and Middlebelt Road.
Livonia’s 16th District Court is requesting $400,000 more than it did in last year’s budget. In 2003-04, the court asked for just over $2.5 million. In the new budget, the court is looking for just under $3 million.
“The court is a semi-independent operation,” the finance director said. “A lot of it is contract terms. We have limited ability to affect what the court spends.”
Spending for Livonia’s Office of Emergency Preparedness is being increased by 27 percent in the new budget. The office is housed inside the police department.
“They’re biggest dollar item is upgrades to the office emergency center,” Slater said. “It is new equipment and refurbishing. We’re just bringing it up to current standards.”
Livonia starts new property tax assessment website
Residents will now be able to check the amounts of their previous property taxes online for the last seven years. They will also be able to see their property values, when their payments were received and if they have an outstanding balance that needs to be paid.
“A lot of residents want to know if we received their check,” Grimbsy said. “We used to have three years. Now we go back to 1999.”
Linda Grimsby is running for city clerk in the upcoming election on November 6. She has been term-limited out of her current job. There are no other candidates running for city clerk so she will get the job. Livonia’s current clerk, Val Vandersloot, is retiring.
Candidates for city treasurer include Dennis Wright, parks and recreation commissioner and Brian Duggan, a former city councilman.
Click Here to view a copy of Livonia's 2007-08 city budget.
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