Archived Story

‘No frills’ in 2010 Niles City budget

Published 9:21am Tuesday, August 25, 2009

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

The city prepared and presented its annual budget in a public hearing preceding Monday night’s scheduled meeting of the city council – but city administrator Terry Eull said Monday that officials were bracing for what could be more cuts in funding coming down from the state, waiting in a state of uncertainty.

“No frills,” is what could be expected from the city’s budget for the 2010 fiscal year, Eull said, adding that funds are “extremely tight.”

“The main concern,’ he said. “Is the state has yet to release what revenue share is going to be for the fiscal year of 2010.”

The city typically sees $1.4 to $1.5 million each year from the state to flow into the general fund. That number in itself has dwindled since about five years ago, Eull said. A majority of the general fund goes toward public safety – money that fuels the police and fire departments as well as the city’s assessor and treasurer.

“It could effect public service,” said Eull.

Over the last four or five years, he said, the city has already lost approximately 20 employees.  Departments have been trying to do more with less.

A cut in the amount of revenue share the state is willing to give to Niles’ general fund, which includes water and electric as well as public safety, could have a significant impact on some of those entities.

Even a few hundred thousand less could mean a loss in jobs.

“We have cut so many things,” Eull said. “We’re almost down to the next thing goes, it’s employees.”

It’s a struggle already, the city administrator added, to keep capital equipment current in order to keep from having outdated police cruisers or other equipment.

“It’s a balancing act,” he said.
Officials don’t know when the state will release its revenue share figures. “Everyone’s on pins and needles,” Eull said. “(They’re) keeping it pretty close to the vest over in Lansing.”

Meanwhile, in regards to other state funds coming into Niles, the city council approved a resolution to enter into a contract with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, bringing them that much closer to the $170,500 to be used for the construction of a recreational trail that would link Riverfront and Plym Park.

Community Development Director Juan Ganum said Monday that the design engineering for the project was completed but a few tasks remain ahead before any ground can be officially broken.

Following approval by the council and final ratification of the contract, submission of that contract must be made to the DNR which will then have to execute it.

The project will then be open for bid and the hope had been to have construction begin in the fall.

However, a matter of a lease agreement with American Electric Power also remains to be dealt with before any significant moves in the project can be made.

Ganum said a portion of land owned by AEP is in the plans for the project. The city has an easement on the property but need a lease agreement in order to build the trail through that stretch of land.

If, for any reason, AEP were to not support the agreement, the city would have to turn to an alternate plan/route and the delay could push construction too far into the year, when asphalt plants close, Ganum said. Officials would have to wait until they reopen in the spring to begin construction on the trail.

Still, Ganum said he’s “hopeful” that the project will get started as planned. The easement on the property has been held since 1942, he said, but while it includes water lines and electric lines, it does not include a recreational trail. Rather than amending the easement, a lease agreement is a more efficient solution. Ganum has a meeting planned with AEP for today.

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