Programs spared from cutsPublished 11:56pm Monday, June 13, 2011
A collective sigh of relief could almost be heard as the Niles City Council announced Monday it will likely approve maintaining about $100,000 in funding for several community programs.
City contributions to the summer parks program, Fort St. Joseph Museum, Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and Southwestern Michigan Economic Growth Alliance (SMEGA) were under consideration for cuts, City Administrator Terry Eull announced May 23.
Eull had very conservatively estimated how much the city would lose in state revenue for 2012; it will receive about $100,000 more than expected.
“We’re still cutting $400,000,” Eull pointed out during the council meeting Monday.
The city had proposed eliminating $15,000 for the DDA — all of its city contribution; $40,000 for the museum, reducing its director position to part-time; $15,000 to SMEGA, reducing its contribution to $5,000; and $20,000 to the summer parks program — all of its city funding.
“I think there’s a near-unanimous decision on the council to maintain (those services),” Mayor Mike McCauslin said.
Fort St. Joseph Executive Director Carol Bainbridge said that if the city had went through with its cuts as initially proposed, her hours would be reduced from 40 to 29 per week, and the museum would operate at a “bare necessities status.” Some education programs would have to be cut back, and the process to get incoming items on display would take longer. She said the Fort St. Joseph programming is growing very rapidly, and it needs staffing.
“I’m opposed to cutting her down to part-time,” council member Tim Skalla said. “We’re getting our money’s worth out of her.”
“I’m very pleased with the percentage of council support,” Bainbridge said. “Nobody dislikes the museum — it’s always about money.
“I’m feeling grateful tonight,” she said.
Lisa Croteau, director of Niles DDA Main Street, said the announcement was “a very pleasant surprise.”
However, she said, this funding is only for 2012, and the DDA needs to be self-sustaining.
“It’s always hard when you’re doing everything on a budget anyway,” Croteau said. “This is, ‘we’re safe for the year.’”
She said the DDA has established a $25 membership program.
“What the program does for the community is certainly more than $25,” she said. “If everybody gives a little…”
Some city cuts will likely remain as proposed, including approximately $140,000 to the police and fire departments.
The fire department, which will have one retirement, is budgeting about $92,000 less for 2012.
The police department — which recently fired officer Ivery Cross and will see Chief Ric Huff move to the city administrator position in the fall — may be down two employees if the captain’s position is not filled and if Capt. James Millin replaces Huff. Although it was approved for a new squad car, the department is still reducing its budget by $50,000.
Niles will likely be $83,700 in the black for fiscal year 2012. It will suffer a $187,000 cut in state revenue.
“We’re in a financial situation where we could utilize some money from our fund equity,” McCauslin said.
The official city budget for 2012 must be available for the public by Aug. 1. A public meeting will be held soon after. Although the fiscal year begins Oct. 1, the city must approve its budget by the end of August.