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Decision makers struggle to balance Negaunee budget

October 21, 2009
By JOHANNA BOYLE Journal Ishpeming Bureau

NEGAUNEE - Work on the Negaunee city budget for 2010 continued Monday night.

Although City Manager Gerald Peterson has recommended a balanced budget to the council, the council is taking steps to allocate more funds to the police department to allow current staffing levels to remain into next year.

The budget will be finalized at the council's Nov. 12 meeting.

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At the meeting, the council received a revised budget request of $686,148 from Police Chief Jay Frusti, which is still about $56,000 above Peterson's recommendation of $630,000.

"We're going to have to cut expenses by another $50,000, and I think that's something you could get to," Peterson told the council.

For most of the meeting, the council went through the budget page by page, looking for projects that could be eliminated or put off.

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By the end of the meeting the council came up with about $20,000 in cuts, including elimination of a new work station at the Negaunee Public Library ($4,500), a sidewalk extension on Case Street ($3,500) and a new laptop computer ($1,500). The new compressor for the ice arena can be purchased over a 10-year period through an energy efficiency program with WPPI, reducing that cost from $15,000 for rebuilding the compressor next year to $5,000 each year for the next 10 years.

"I think it was a good night," Councilman Paul Maino said. "We had a good discussion on most of the issues."

The council has scheduled its next budget work session for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at the senior center.

Other potentials for cuts voted down by the council were the $25,000 city grant match for grants applied for the Miners' Park and the city's annual trip to Washington, D.C.

Giving up the $25,000 grant match would mean losing the $75,000 grant, which the city will hear about later this year.

The motion was made by Maino, seconded by Councilman Steve Perucco, and failed by a 3-3 vote.

"Right now Miners' Park is a great park, it's in beautiful shape," Maino said. "I hate to do it, but I think at this point, it's the least of some of the hard cuts we have to make."

Councilmen Richard Wills and Jim Thomas and Mayor Paul Gravedoni voted against the motion.

"It's not going to be a simple thing like reapplying next year," Gravedoni said. "It is really going to hurt you in the standing of grant money."

In terms of the annual city trip to Washington, D.C., Councilman Tom Stanaway made a motion to limit the trip to one person in place of the three that the council has traditionally sent. The trip is budgeted at $6,000.

"We have a paid lobbyist that's there and sending only one essential personnel, we could cut that substantially," Stanaway said. "My total concept of this trip is that I didn't think I would want to go back again."

Stanaway argued that the grant money the city has received would have come in regardless of whether the council sent members to Washington.

That motion failed 4-2, with Stanaway and Perucco voting in favor.

Besides finding extra funding for the police department, the council will likely also have to wrestle with funding for the Department of Public Works, particularly in finding money for vehicle replacement that has been put off by the council for several years, Peterson said.

The department request by Director Dan Czarnecki includes $758,600, while Peterson's recommendation is $523,300, meaning purchase of a replacement sander truck and roof repairs to the DPW building are not included.

"Half our budget goes to winter maintenance, so that's a very critical piece of equipment," Czarnecki said of the sander.

Still unfunded are the city's Street Asset Management plan and the Croix Street phase 1A and 2 grant matches.

Even though the council may be able to make this year's budget work, Peterson said he was expecting the same, if not a more difficult discussion, in the years to come.

"I view this as a very intractable problem," Peterson said. "I don't know how to solve this."



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