The Grosse Pointe Woods city council approved the proposed budget for the 2011/2012 fiscal year late Monday after completing its line-by-line review. The council made few, if any, changes to the proposal brought forth by the city manager and the city comptroller/treasurer.
Early in the process, the council decided the budget should assume a 0.5 millage increase to fill the gap in revenue and spending. The proposed budget as passed Monday still assumes this millage increase.
The approval was met by resistance by Councilwoman Lisa Pinkos Howle who said she cannot support seeking additional funds from the public when not all of the appropriate cuts are being made by the city.
Pinkos Howle was against assuming the millage increase to balance the budget from the beginning. She believed it was more appropriate to do the line-by-line review of the budget to see if a millage was truly appropriate. Following the line-by-line review, Pinkos Howle said she doesn't believe much was accomplished.
Along the way, Pinkos Howle suggested the council give up their annual salaries as a measure of goodwill to the community, of whom the council will ask for more money to operate the city. The suggestion garnered accusations by Mayor Robert Novitke that Pinkos Howle was simply making it because of her upcoming reelection.
Similarly, Pinkos Howle previously suggested eliminating or at least reducing the expense of a volunteer appreciation party--a suggestion eliciting the same reaction from the mayor--held at the Grosse Pointe Hunt Club totaling $12,000.
The line-by-line review Monday focused heavily on suggestions by Pinkos Howle of ways to trim the budget here and there--amounts she said added up to about $200,000. The ideas were generally not supported but included cutting out conferences, organization memberships and education for employees.
Additionally, she questioned the use of two part-time contracted employees in performing inspections for the building department, explaining she believes the inspections could be completed by some of the full time building department employees.
Councilman Joseph Sucher said he believes the city should have a general rule that limits employees to attending one conference per year, giving the employee the discretion to choose what conference. He said he will not support in the future city employees simply going to conferences because they are members. He expects, he said, there to be some benefit being returned to the city for attendance at such events.
Sucher also suggested reviewing how the city handles its legal counsel, noting the budgeted amount exceeding $160,000. He questioned whether that amount of money could net the city a full time attorney versus the current system of piecemeal work billed at an hourly rate.
Thus far in the current budget year, the legal department has spent far less than the budgeted amount--a point emphasized by councilman Art Bryant and city attorney Don Berschback.
The meeting at times held an air of tenseness as city department heads found themselves needing to justify their many memberships or portions of their budget that seemed out of line.
Next week, the council will hold its pubic hearing regarding the 2011/2012 fiscal year budget during which residents are allowed to share their thoughts about it. Following the public hearing May 16, the council will vote on the budget.