Home > Feedback > A Berkley resident wants to know …

A Berkley resident wants to know …

“… I would like to know why some harder decisions were not made this year?  Have city hall employees been ask to take a pay cut, has the city manager volunteered to take a pay cut and give up her car allowance?  The residents of Berkley, for the most part, make car payments and pay for their own gas to get back and forth to work. What has been done this year to help increase the general fund and keep whatever mileage increase you may want our support on at a minimum? …”

Categories: Feedback
  1. admin
    May 28, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    The Headlee amendment is great law. That’s why Michigan voters passed it three decades ago. It has done for Berkley exactly what it was intended to do…limited the growth of government to the rate of inflation or lower.

    Even though our charter stipulates that we can levy 12 mills, Headlee has restricted that over the years so that now we levy about 8.5 mills. After many years of going over budgets page by page, I can assure you that if Mr Headlee were alive today, he could come to Berkley and study our financial situation and say, “Well done, but it’s time for your residents to pass a small Headlee override or you guys are in tough shape next year.”

    I am absolutely confident that every employee, every supervisor, every department head and the city manager are doing the most that they can with the people and equipment that we have…and then some. Pay raises have been flat or low and, in many cases, we are still well below what similar positions pay in neighboring communities. We have negotiated new insurance rates and increased co-pays. We have begun requiring employees hired after a certain date to contribute to the retirement medical benefits. We have encouraged people to retire and hire them back as contract employees saving a bunch of money. We cut the parks and rec department in half about six years ago and the library by about a third at the same time.

    You may not agree with Jane’s pay grade or the fact that she gets a car allowance, but there again she makes well below her peers in neighboring communities and I absolutely believe that she earns her pay. She saves us money. Besides, to make up the kind of money that we will need in the next couple of years, every full time employee would need to take a $10,000 pay cut.

    We are being hit with four major blows.

    1. decreased property values and resulting decreased tax revenue
    2. markedly decreased revenue sharing from the state
    3. many of our costs increase 4 and 5 times the rate of inflation that Headlee
    limits us to and
    4. a brand new cost in the last two years of having to prefund future retiree
    health benefits. This cost alone is somewhere between $400,000 and $900,000
    per year! It ranges so wildly because it is based on how much we can afford.

    One of three things will happen next year as we prepare the budget. We will have to close parks and rec— or each and every department will get layoffs, effectively crippling each department a little bit (I am steadfastly opposed to this)—or we will pass a small Headlee override. An override of 1.5 mills raises about $650,000 and costs the average homeowner about $125.00 per year. These figures are off the cuff and may not be 100% accurate but they are close.

    It is understandable to not want to pay more taxes. I hate taxes!!!!!!!! And when we get a chance to vote on taxes (unlike at the state and federal level) we quite naturally pull the “no” lever. But local taxes benefit us. They do not go for the military, welfare, foreign aid, some stupid study of college freshmen spring break behavior or the such.

    They stay here and if you don’t like the way the council is spending it, you through the bums out and get new residents to spend it or give it back.

    And I am not suggesting that there may not be some people in Berkley that can’t afford an extra $125.00 per year. Those people would have to vote no on an override and if there are enough of them then if would fail. But it is my obligation to try to inform you of what is going to happen. I have been on council long enough to see us spend down our reserve fund to almost nothing and I have seen us utilize drastic cuts (like six years ago) to balance the budget. I will not continue to vote for budgets that use our rainy day funds for day to day operations. Without an override, Berkley will be very different 16 months from now than it is today. And our quality of life will suffer and our home values will suffer.

    Thanks for paying attention!

    Councilmember Benton

  2. steve smith
    June 23, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    I agree with Mr. Benton. Employees have taken concessions on health care, and other items. I think a headlee override is needed and needed now.

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