Roads get boost in proposed Rochester Hills budget

Mayor Bryan Barnett

Mayor Bryan Barnett’s proposal to increase city funding for local streets next year should make a lot of folks happy in Rochester Hills.

The mayor delivered his proposed 2013 budget to city council Monday night, along with projections for 2014 and 2015. For next year, he proposed doubling the $1.5 million he previously pledged for local street needs to $3 million.

“We know that the condition of our local roads is a primary concern of our residents,” he said. “While this represents a significant contribution in recognizing the importance of this issue, it in no way is designed to be a long-term, sustainable funding source. It will simply improve our ability to address some of our worst areas, and I hope council will support this reallocation for 2013.”

In all, the mayor proposed $8.8 million for capital projects, $6 million of which goes for local streets and major roads. Just over $4 million of the capital budget will come from the city’s fund balance (savings account).

“We are not proposing the use of general-fund unassigned fund balance as a revenue source to balance our general-fund operating budget,” Barnett said. “Any proposed use of fund balance in fiscal year 2013 is primarily related to improving the city’s infrastructure through capital projects.”

Council has scheduled two meetings to workshop the budget, Aug. 20 and 27 at 5:30 p.m.

Separately, council agreed Monday to set an Aug. 27 public hearing regarding a proposed road-funding question for the November general-election ballot.

At the recommendation of the Police/Roads Technical Review Committee, council is considering asking voters to renew an expiring 0.4855-mill drain bond tax for seven years and allow the money to be repurposed for local roads.

“This is a tax we’re currently paying now; this would not be an increase in taxes,” said council President Greg Hooper.

In his budget address, Barnett said he sees light at the end of the economic tunnel.

“The last 12-18 months have shown signs of recovery,” he said. “Last year, in fact, our bedroom community of Rochester Hills led all of Oakland County in new residential investment.”

Barnett proposed the same tax rate, 9.7060 mills, which has been in place for the last 13 years (outside of voter-approved changes). Property-tax revenues are projected to fall by 1.17 percent (just over $436,000), but increased development activity and population growth will at least partially offset the loss. Spending is proposed to increase by 1 percent over the current budget.

With staffing levels below 1998’s level, Barnett said budgeting since the economic downturn began “at times has been uncomfortable. …  It has also provided a very remarkable opportunity to examine ourselves and the way we do business. It has also positioned us for success and recovery. …

“While we are still in the early stages of improvement, it is an improvement nonetheless.”

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