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Marquette City Commission approves tight budget

May 17, 2012
By KYLE WHITNEY - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - The Marquette City Commission adopted a budget Monday for the 2012-2013 fiscal year that is 2.6 percent smaller than than the current fiscal year budget.

After spring budget discussions, the commission agreed upon an $18 million budget, which was described as one of the strictest in years.

"I think it's a good budget, I think it's one that is austere, I think it is one that reflects great opportunity and a willingness to pare down the budget to the greatest extent that we can," Commissioner Fred Stonehouse said.

The budget includes a $700,000 decrease from the estimate for the 2011-2012 budget year, which ends June 30.

In 2010-2011, the city's general fund revenues were $17.1 million. In 2009-2010, they were $18.5 million and in 2008-2009, they were $17.4 million.

Some commissioners were unhappy with the lack of public input related to the budget, which was adopted during a public hearing at Monday's regular commission meeting. There was no public input during the hearing.

"The most frustrating issue in the whole process is that I think we had, if I'm not mistaken, one person make one public comment with regard to one specific issue in all of the public hearings we had for the budget," Commissioner David Saint-Onge said. "It's just so hard to defend the electorate's wallet when the electorate doesn't care. With that, I think I'm actually going to vote for my first budget in three years, only because nobody else seems to care. I'm going to vote for it."

However, Saint-Onge said he was happier with the proposed budget than he had been in years.

"I still contend that we carry too much debt," he said. "I think we made some great strides, with regard to where we've cut and where we've become a little more fiscally prudent. I very much appreciate that. I think the trend is in the right direction."

Proposed fringe benefits are 3.3 percent higher than 2011-2012, while proposed transfers out are 5.3 percent higher. The proposed cost for supplies and services are 8 percent lower.

The approved budget included roughly $6.5 million in capital outlay, $259,800 of which is related to equipment. For the 2011-2012 budget year, about $5 million in capital outlay was approved. In 2010-2011, the total was $6.6 million. In 2009-2010, it was $10.6 million and in 2008-2009 it was $10.4 million.

Commissioner Robert Niemi, who called the budget process the most challenging he has ever been involved with, said he was fine with the final budget. In the future, however, he said he hopes to see more focus on city infrastructure.

"We've addressed some of our infrastructure needs and in the last couple years we've reduced some of our debt and we must do so," he said. "But we're really pushing important projects down the road further. Projects don't go away. There are still streets that need to be repaired. There are still 100-year-old pipes in the ground that need to be repaired."

Mayor John Kivela said the city has been watching the state, hoping to get an indication of what the level of statutory revenue sharing funding will be. Though the estimate is in the neighborhood of $300,000, times are uncertain and the city chose to balance the budget without including that amount.

Kivela said he is pleased to see the city trim the budget when needed.

"The staff did a remarkable job this year," he said.

Later in the same meeting, the commission agreed to schedule three public hearings related to proposed increases to sewer, water and stormwater rates.

The budget proposes 5 percent rate increases to water and stormwater rates and a 9 percent increase in sewer rates. The average municipal customer would see a per month rate increase of $3.59 on their sewer bill, $1.35 per month on their water bill and 28 cents per month on their stormwater bill.

The public hearings on the rate increases are scheduled for July 1.

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.



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