The Financial Planning Committee is getting closer to presenting its recommendations to the public and City Council for how to cut the city budget an add revenue in 2011.
The committee still has to finalize its presentations over the next two weeks, but they have tentatively set a public forum for Dec. 29 at City Hall, another Jan. 9 at the Kulick Center and then expects to formally present to Council on Jan. 10. These dates are subject to change and exact details are forthcoming.
"We've made progress and we agree on what we need to do," said committee member Scott Helmer. "We just need to finalize the details."
The committee, which has been meeting since late September, was given the task of examining the city's general fund and figuring out ways to cut costs by 10 percent and raise revenue by 15 percent. The committee has narrowed it down to three main illustrations.
The first one would be what is called a Headlee Override. This illustration would increase the current operating millage by 5.4552 mils, which would roughly be about a 10 percent increase in Ferndale tax rates. The Headlee Override would put the extra revenue into the general fund, but it would not necessarily go toward public safety, which the committee is recommending. The Headlee Override would also come with a reduction of about $700,000 in the police operating budget, according to Co-Chairman Joel Petrie.
The Headlee Override would "sunset" Dec. 31, 2015. The idea to have this sunset gives the city a chance to reassess the situation in five years. It allows for maneuvering and adjusting if needed.
"The Headlee gives us a couple years to see where we are at," Helmer said.
Public safety makes up 60 percent of the general fund. The other 40 percent includes City Hall, 43rd District Court, Ferndale Recreation and a small portion of the Department of Public Works, among other things.
The committee is also illustrating a dedicated public safety millage. With this millage, by dedicating it to public safety, the extra revenue wouldn't go into the general fund but directly to public safety. This millage can be raised higher than the Headlee Override's 5.4552, as much as 15 mils (roughly a 30 percent tax rate increase). The committee, however, is not recommending that.
City Manager Bob Bruner said the higher the tax rate goes, the more revenue comes into the city, the less services will have to be cut.
City Hall has already decreased staff by 28 percent. Ferndale Police have laid off eight and lost one through attrition, while the fire department laid of four and lost three through attrition, Bruner said.
The final illustration the committee is putting together is what happens if no millage is passed. The committee has dubbed this the "worst case scenario."
"The public needs to know exactly what will happen if no millage is passed," committee member Greg Pawlica said.
This illustration will look at the effects of cutting Ferndale Recreation, cuts to the Department of Public Works, the Downtown Development Authority, grass cutting, restroom cleaning at the parks, the programs at the Kulick Center, as well as an Oakland County Sheriff takeover of public safety.
"This (illustration) shows what the city looks like with no money," Pawlica said.
He added: "Even if we cut it all down, the city is still facing a $3 million deficit (after five years)."
Whatever the Council chooses, they must make a decision shortly after the committee's formal presentation to get a millage on the May ballot so it will apply to July's taxes.
The committee will meet again next Wednesday to continue working on its public presentation and to finalize the dates of the public forums.
"Next week is a huge meeting," Helmer said.
The Financial Planning Committee meets at the Kulick Center at 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday.