New Budget for Rochester Hills 2011

Over the past month, the mayor and city council have been working through the budget for 2011 and beyond. Mayor Barnett presented a fiscally sound, conservative budget for Fiscal Year 2011 with an outlook for 2012 and 2013. I applaud this forward thinking of a three year budget proposal. The budget, as presented, called for no new taxes or fee increases. I am a firm believer that this is the correct way to go – we must fund our core city services while staying within our budget. Families are making difficult budget decisions at home every day – government needs to also make tough decisions.

Following the mayor’s budget presentation, the council held budget workshops where we heard from the department directors. While there are many aspects of the budget, the focus has narrowed to a few key points:

Police Funding: Currently we maintain a sixty officer police force through our contract with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office. Due to inflationary increases within the contract, the price to maintain that number of officers rises each year. The proposed budget calls for fifty-seven officers – a decrease of three – for 2011. While two of the three proposed officer cuts do not respond to service calls, I am a believer that we must find a way to fund the third officer who does respond to service calls.

Local Street Funding:

In August, voters approved the Local Street Millage by a two to one margin. This money will wisely be repurposed from servicing debt towards our local roads. However, given our general fund budget constraints, the millage will mostly cover maintenance costs like snow removal and selective patching of the most troublesome neighborhood streets. This is in contrast to past years where the city was able to replace some local roads. I agree with the administration that we need to be in a “maintain what we have” mode during this economic downturn. But I am also interested in some of the proposals discussed at the workshops- proposals to find some additional budget dollars for local roads this year.

Parks Dept./Environmental Education Center:

The Parks department is funded through the General Fund and also through revenue generated by fees as well as agreements with Pine Trace and others. The administration has proposed to move the Environmental Education Center to the Rochester Hills Museum and lease the existing building (near City Hall) to the Clinton River Watershed Council. I think that this is a wise proposal that will maintain several programs offered by the education center while cutting down on building and personnel costs. I am also very interested to see what additional programs are offered through the Watershed Council should the lease agreement move forward.

These points, and I am sure others, will be debated within our community.  Residents should continue to have their voices heard on these issues. The council has set a public hearing on the budget for Monday, September 13th at 7 PM at City Hall as part of our regular business meeting agenda.  

Michael Webber

Rochester Hills City Council