ALPENA -The City of Alpena's 2013-14 budget has been adopted by Alpena Municipal Counil and the need for drastic cuts was unnecessary. In order to balance the new budget however, the city once again had to dip into its fund balance for about $738,322. The high amount taken from the fund balance is due to needed capital improvement projects which were supposed to be done this year, but delayed until the new budget year begins.
Overall council is pleased with how the next fiscal year is shaping up, but council members are still concerned about loss of revenue from the state, particularly personal property tax. Mayor Matt Waligora said he is pleased because a budget was able to be completed that didn't cost people jobs or services.
"The best part about it really is that we were really able to keep everything we had last year and there were no cuts to services or to the taxpayers. That was something that was a concern of mine during the process," Waligora said. "Some of the departments came in under budget as well and I think it is important for people to know that because it is difficult to do with the little they are given. They all have found a way to work together and share costs on certain things."
Waligora said the uncertainty about how the state will replace the lost revenue from the abolishment of personal property tax is a concern. He said if the lawmakers can't find a way to replace the revenue, it will be a blow to the new budget and adjustments to it may have to be made down the road.
"We look really great right now, but if things get screwy in Lansing then we will have to compensate for them and adjust things," Waligora said. "I hope we don't have to undo the things we have in place now."
Like last year, the city committed $40,000 to Target Alpena to help spur economic development and job growth. Councilman Mike Nowak said he thinks supporting Target financially now can have a big payback later.
"I'm really pleased we were able to support Target," Nowak said. "I look at things that we can make investments in and get a return on. I believe Target provides us with a good return. It was a great investment last year and I think it will be again."
Like Waligora, Nowak said his concern for the new budget, which begins on July 1 and concludes on June 30, 2014, is the loss of personal property tax and what the city can do to replace the lost revenue should the state not provide a replacement stream on funds in its place.
"There are still a lot of unknowns at the state level and how they plan on replacing the personal property tax. That was a lot of revenue for the city and how they decide to replace it and how much they replace is my biggest concern," Nowak said. "It is the right move for the state and I understand how it will help it, but for local government it is a huge loss of revenue that needs to be replaced."
Councilman Shawn Sexton said there were not a lot of unknowns with the new budget as there has been in years past, and it turned out about how he anticipated. He said he is hopeful the economic climate is turning around and that future budgets will be stronger.
"We have cut everything that we really could cut," Sexton said. "I think there is a little more optimism, but for right now we need to keep towing the line."
The city also decided to commit $7,500 and an officer to the Huron Undercover Narcotics Team and $14,000 to the Huron Humane Society. The shelter is always at or over capacity and relies on government subsidies and fundraising to keep its service to residents and animals available. Councilman Sam Eiler said he has loved animals since he was young and is involved with the humane society. He said caring and protecting the animals is a must.
"I have a soft spot in my heart for all animals and this shelter is very special because it is a no-kill facility," Eiler said. "These animals ... need someone to speak for them and I believe we do that. I think it is right for the city to support it, because it helps to keep them off of the streets and potentially biting somebody. People like to talk about gems in our community, well I think the Huron Humane Society is one of them and deserves our support."
Eiler said the city's staff and council make sure each dollar spent is on things the taxpayers approve of. He said he believes everyone in the budget process has done a good job of providing people with the services they desire and expect.
"We are not wasting a dollar," Eiler said. "I think we are decent caretakers of the taxpayer's money and we are doing more with less. The staff has been terrific with working with a small budget and still coming out ahead."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com