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Wakefield council passes budget


June 10, 2020


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Wakefield — The Wakefield City Council voted Monday evening to approve a 2020-21 budget of more than $4.6 million for the fiscal year beginning on July 1.

Budget details show that $1,115,453 in general budget costs are expected in categories such as office staff remuneration, law enforcement, fire protection, building and grounds maintenance, elections, planning and development, parks and recreation, campground, inventory and billing, and a contingency fund for expenses “not anticipated in the budget process.”

Finally, a sub-category for miscellaneous public expense, for which $210,581 is allotted, includes a sum of $120,000 for expenses relating to the Municipal Employees Retirement System.

Separate from the general fund are departmental budget categories such as electric, $1,599,450; water, sewer and garbage, whose individual budgets total $1,088,810; major and local streets, whose individual budgets total $520,390; motor pool, $228,060; library, $93,100; and cemetery, $32,047.

“The city of Wakefield, as well as municipalities across the state and country, are facing an unprecedented challenge in developing our 2020-21 fiscal budgets due to COVID-19,” said City Manager Rob Brown in a written report to the council.

Brown continued that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “numerous orders have and will continue to have a significant, lasting impact on the economy.”

For that reason, he added that any attempts to predict the degree to which city revenue sources will be affected, or for how long, will be “complicated.”

Mayor Dale White announced that the city will assume a loss of about $120,000 in the coming year’s budget, although he said Brown and City Treasurer Sherry Ravelli were able to reduce expenses by $111,000 “without impacting city services.” Surplus funds will cover the remaining shortage.

The grand total of the general budget, along with separate department budgets, is $4,677,310.

White commended the “awesome job” done by Brown and Ravelli, noting that they were forced to contend with a “tough end” to the current fiscal year while also facing a “tough beginning” of the next one.

Prior to the budget vote, a related public hearing at the start of the virtual meeting drew no comments.

In other news, Brown reported that Eddy Park and its adjacent campground are now open. He said that disclaimers have been placed on park equipment to alert people that they may use it “at your own risk.”

Brown said that the campground shower building and the bathrooms on the southwestern side of Sunday Lake are now open from 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays with an expectation that 24-hour access will occur soon. He added that bathrooms for the large pavilion next to the lake’s dam will be open only when the pavilion is rented.

“Our swimming beach looks fantastic,” said the mayor, who commended city staff and said it’s “nice to see” the park being used.

Council members also:

—Voted to pass state Public Act 152, which limits the city’s spending on employee medical benefit plans to 80%. Mayor Pro-Tempore Amy Tarro abstained on the grounds of her husband, Jim Tarro, being employed by the city.

—Voted to opt out of state Public Act No. 95, which invites municipalities to add a $1 charge on each household’s utility bill, with those funds then used within a low-income energy assistance fund. The city manager said the funds are distributed throughout the state, so that Wakefield would see “very little return” for the collection.

—Voted to approve Resolution No. 273, which will allow a property tax increase of .2459 mills to recapture about $5,400 that otherwise would be lost due to the state’s Truth in Taxation ruling.

“It’s something we do almost every year,” said the city treasurer. Brown added that the change in 2020 millage will increase operating revenue from ad valorem property by 1.21%, thus accounting for inflation. A related public hearing prior to the vote drew no comments.

—Learned from the city manager and city attorney Ray O’Dea that steps are underway to address the removal of debris from the Sunday Lake Street building that collapsed during the past winter. The two also explored additional blight measures with council members.

The council will meet next on June 22 at 5:30 p.m. In announcing an expected end to virtual meetings, the mayor said he anticipates that the session will be held in the municipal building “unless something changes.” The public is welcome with the understanding that social distancing will be encouraged.


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