By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald
Monday’s city council meeting will showcase three public hearings for Port Huron residents.
The floor will be open to those who wish to comment on the $21.2 million proposed budget that City Manager James Freed introduced to council members on April 27.
The proposed 2015-16 budget includes cutting the city’s firefighting staff by more than 12 percent and billing residents $35 a year to maintain trash and recycling services.
The budget includes:
• Reducing the fire department staff from 40 to 35, through early retirements. The public safety’s fire division is slated to take more than $575,000 in cuts, bringing its overall budget to about $4.7 million.
• Eliminating the city manager’s assistant position, through early retirement, creating a savings of $50,000.
• Adding a $35 annual fee per residence to pay for continued trash and recycling services, generating about $300,000 annually.
• Providing an additional $500,000 down payment toward unfunded liabilities.
• Cutting $75,000 to McMorran for capital improvements, as well as cutting $25,000 in city dollars for capital improvements for the parks and recreation department.
• Capital improvements coming from funding outside of the city’s general fund revenue.
Freed said he expects a lively debate from residents on the proposed cuts.
“The budget hasn’t been balanced in four years,” he said. “This is truly balanced without the use of subsidiaries. That came at the result of difficult decisions.”
Council will also listen to comments on the proposed capital improvement plan as well as the proposed budget for the city’s Downtown Development Authority.
City Engineer Bob Clegg said the state requires all municipalities to prepare a six-year capital improvement plan that lays out some of the larger projects it wants to undertake.
Projects on the list are expected to have a value of $20,000 or more with the life expectancy of at least 10 years.
Improvements in the plan will include water main replacements, road and building improvements, and bridge and street repairs. Among these projects will be the improvements proposed for Lakeside Park.
“It’s a list of needs from professionals within each department,” Clegg said. “It takes vision, you’re talking six years. State requirement or not, it is good public policy to have a plan in place.”
Port Huron’s DDA plans to use the majority of its funding to address the city’s crumbling streetscape.
Of the DDA’s nearly $150,000 budget, $100,000 has been budgeted to the downtown’s infrastructure, including items like crumbling curbs and missing walkway bricks.
A special meeting for council members to discuss the budget will be held later in the week at 6 p.m., Wednesday in Conference Room 408.
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on May 10, 2015)