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Wakefield council gears up for 2019-20 fiscal budget


May 15, 2019


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Wakefield — The Wakefield City Council voted Monday to accept a draft version of its 2019-2020 fiscal budget and scheduled a related work session for May 29 at 10 a.m. in the council chambers of the municipal building.

City manager Rob Brown told the Daily Globe Tuesday that an updated draft will be compiled after the session, followed by a public hearing.

The council then plans to vote on the budget at its June 10 meeting.

Among adjustments so far in the coming year’s budget will be a separation of the city’s park and campground departments. Brown said that will allow expenses to be monitored separately.

According to the city manager, the council also will continue to include in its ongoing budget dedicated funds for the city’s healthcare retiree liability.

In a written report to the council, Brown noted that the city’s current liability is $400,000. He added that the council had the foresight in recent years to set aside a total of about $75,000 toward that debt.

“The state is moving towards mandating retiree liability funds to be protected in a trust or other post-employment benefits account,” stated Brown.

As a result, under his recommendation, the council also voted Monday to authorize himself and city treasurer Sherry Ravelli to create an OPEB investment account with Michigan’s Municipal Employees’ Retirement System.

Hence, the dedicated sum saved so far, as well as continuing earmarked funds within the current and next budgets, now will be deposited within the state account, which MERS will manage.

In a separate statement to the council, Brown also proposed “to reduce funding for acquiring and demolishing foreclosed parcels significantly” in the new fiscal budget.

He added, “I believe investing in a community-wide blight education campaign, and blight enforcement, will be the best investment of tax dollars” and that it will have “a broader and more meaningful impact than the demolishment of a few buildings.”

After noting that no city lots now “present a clear and present danger to the general public,” Brown recommended the city not purchase any newly listed foreclosed properties.

He said the 2018-2019 fiscal budget has $26,006 remaining from $30,000 that had been budgeted to demolish blighted buildings from foreclosure.

According to the manager, the average demolition cost of a blighted building is $12,000.

Brown said he does not expect the city’s union negotiations to be completed by the time the budget is adopted, but he said the budget will be adjusted afterward as needed.

After a closed session at a special meeting on April 29, the council voted to approve opening negotiations on the next contract for the city’s union workers.

Also on Monday, the council voted to publish for 30 days the following two proposed resolutions regarding elections:

1. To adjust council election terms from the current system of electing all five members every two years, to a new system in which elections would be staggered. Brown said the council then will vote to approve or deny related ballot language, after which it will be placed on the November ballot if Gov. Gretchen Whitmer approves it.

2. To switch city elections from odd years to even years, so that the cost will be paid by the state in accordance with concurrent state and national elections.

Brown said that, after the required publication period, the council then will vote to approve or deny related ballot language on both resolutions, after which they must be approved by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer before then being placed on the November ballot.

The council also:

—Heard from Brown that assessor Tom Williams of R.T. Williams Agency, Inc. in Ironwood has visited the Wakefield City Hall to estimate its value. Brown said he expects to receive the related report soon so that council members may discuss it at their next meeting.

—Voted to hire AECOM, a global engineering firm with an office in Marquette, to conduct bi-annual bridge inspections and related evaluations on the city’s four bridges on Lakeshore Drive, Old U.S. 2, Nunnemacher Street, and Verona Road, at a total cost of $3,400.

—Voted to adopt Resolution No. 253, which relates to the acceptance of ballot language that will limit city hiring of Civil Service positions. The resolution now will be forwarded to the governor’s office for approval.

—Voted to approve the purchase of a sewer camera for $4,550 from Core and Main, based in St. Louis, Mo. Brown reported it was the only company to provide a sealed bid.

—Voted to allow Toni Ann Anderson of Wakefield to set up a Buttercup Popcorn Wagon in Eddy Park during the summer months and to waive the $3 per day vendor fee.

The municipal building will be closed on May 27 in honor of Memorial Day.

The council will meet next on May 28 at 5:30 p.m. in the council room of the municipal building.


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