Port Huron budget to be introduced Monday

By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald

Port Huron’s proposed budget will be unveiled Monday night to council members and is expected to include $1 million in cuts.

“It will scale back government spending by more than $1 million in the general fund,” City Manager James Freed said. “You’ll see a budget that structurally reduces the size and cost of government.”

Some of the major changes include:

Incentives for early retirement.

Merge divisions among city departments.

Make advanced payments of almost $500,000 toward unfunded liabilities.

Address the trash fund deficit the city is projected to incur.

Freed said the city will try to speed up employee attrition by offering incentives like buyouts for employees willing to retire earlier.

The budget will also include making additional payments toward the city’s unfunded liabilities — pension and retiree health care costs — in order to improve its funding levels.

Council will schedule a public hearing for May 11 during its regular meeting, followed by a budget work session at 6 p.m. May 13 in Conference Room 408 at city hall.

At the May 26 council meeting — which is a Tuesday, since May 25 is on Memorial Day — the budget will be brought before council for adoption with any revisions or changes that come from the public hearing or work session.

Council members will be given a copy of the budget at the Monday meeting and have a chance to review it before the May 13 work session.

Freed said the council will not be completely in the dark for Monday’s meeting, as he has individually met with council members to go over the budget proposal.

The budget will not be available to the public until it is formally introduced to council members.

The budget will not only focus on the next 12 months, but also give projections for the next three years through June 2018.

“They are getting projections for the next 36 months to see the cause and effect of the policy decisions they make for this year,” said Ed Brennan, city finance director. “Our operating budget will be cut by about 4 percent.”

Freed, along with the finance department, worked with other department heads to develop the proposed budget.

The city sent out budget worksheets to each department in January in order to create its revenue projections.

Brennan said the main takeaway from the proposed budget will be to focus on cutting operations because of the stagnant revenue flow.

“In order to balance the budget in the upcoming year without additional revenue, we would have to reduce operations,” he said. “It has to be done.”

Last year’s budget proposal used $230,000 in fund balance dollars and $340,000 in an operating transfer from the land purchase, Brennan said.

“This year’s budget will be completely balanced if approved,” he said. “I want to say it’s been four years since the city didn’t require any additional help from other balances.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on April 26, 2015)

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