Message From the Mayor

Past and present officials and community leaders have proclaimed, “We want the best for Berkley!”  Has the city ever realized that objective, or have we had to settle for solutions that are just good enough?  In the 1950’s Berkley voters rejected a proposal to increase taxes for the construction of a new city hall that the City Council had determined to be necessary.  The Council went ahead, and used limited funds from the city budget to construct the city hall and district court building. It was good enough, and better than existing facilities.  Half a century later it is where the Building and Planning Department, Finance Department, Clerk, Treasurer and Finance Departments, Communications and Technology staff, as well as the District Court are located.  There have been improvements, but the building is energy inefficient and not readily adaptable to accommodate technological changes.  If it was just good enough in the 1950’s, what is its status today? Except for our wonderful library and the Public Safety building – which are the most recent results of voter approved bonds, which have been paid off – the other city buildings are showing their age.

Ever since 2002, when declining revenues were not adequate to cover increasing expenditures, Berkley Administration and City Councils have implemented measures to reduce spending.  Library staffing has been reduced by 25%, as the reduced staff manages 56% increase in computer use.  Hours have been reduced from 65 per week in 2000 to 54 hours September – May and 46 hours in the summer, and library use has remained constant.

There are more part-time employees and fewer full-time employees in every department of the city.  Most employees have received no increase in pay for 3 years and the two labor contracts which were recently ratified contain no salary increases as well as fringe benefit reductions and higher co-pays..

Reductions in revenue are predicted for the 2011-2012 budget year, and to  continue in subsequent years.  The city’s projected loss in revenue between 2007 and 2013 will amount to over $3/4 million.  Cities are admonished to “just simply cut the fat.”  Berkley has already done just that.  There is no more “fat to cut.”  Although population has declined, the number of houses hasn’t decreased.  The miles of streets, sewers and water lines haven’t been reduced.  Our infrastructure needs to be maintained and repairs must be made.  We may delay maintenance, but emergencies cannot be delayed, and delayed maintenance leads eventually to the need for costly repairs or replacement.

What reductions of services might we consider to align expenditures with anticipated revenues?  Here are a few possibilities:

  • Delay capital improvements.
  • Reduce trash collection to every-other week.
  • Further reduce staffing in every department.
  • Close a department.
  • Sweep the streets less often.
  • Plow snow only when the depth reaches a foot.
  • Reduce hours in all departments to four days a week.

What outcomes would future Councils have to address if any of these were implemented?

  • There will be increased cost for repairs as the infrastructure and equipment age.
  • Debris and rat problems will increase.
  • Instead of paying salaries the city will pay unemployment and add to the ranks of the unemployed.
  • Empty buildings will still require attention, heating and maintenance or the city will have to fund the demolition of unused buildings.
  • This will hasten the deterioration of the sewer system.
  • Safe traveling will be jeopardized as traffic becomes difficult for residents and businesses.
  • What day will be chosen?  Residents and businesses will experience reduced services and inconveniences.

Would any of these outcomes be best for Berkley?  Would any of them even be considered good enough until better times unfold?

Michigan legislators advise cities to share services, collaborate and consolidate.  Bills are being proposed in the legislature that will tie funding to such measures.  For years Berkley has engaged in shared services through SOCWA, SOCRRA, county purchasing programs, Public Safety agreements, and school district/city land use contracts.  We provide Animal Control Services for Royal Oak and Public Safety dispatch services for Huntington Woods and Pleasant Ridge.

Initial discussions have taken place between Berkley and Pleasant Ridge to collaborate with that city in providing Public Safety services to both communities. The issue of short term and long term savings will be a critical element of future discussions.  The process will take time as there are many factors to be considered.  It is not the solution to either city’s budget dilemma. Other measures will have to be taken. You will be learning more in the following months as the Council and the Administration work to prepare a balanced 2011-2012 budget that is the best possible fiscal proposal for Berkley.

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  1. Willard E. Rohrbeck
    August 10, 2011 at 10:12 am

    I’m sorry that the employees haven’t received a raise in 2 years. I haven’t received a cola for Social Security in 2 years either. My costs are going up too. My health care takes 708.00 per month( an increase of 40.00 per month from last year). My property taxes went up 67.00 this year. Gas and milk are costing more. Everybody should just be glad that they even have a job with MI high unemployment rate.
    Willard E. Rohrbeck
    1935 Tyler
    Berkley

  1. February 8, 2011 at 9:54 am

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