Dream Cruise, SMART, Recreation, Sidewalks and Public Works Present Budget Requests

By, Crystal A. Proxmire


On Monday, April 05, 2010 The Ferndale City Council heard from various departments about their budget requests.  The process of hearing from each department takes about three weeks, then the Council will take department requests into consideration as they figure out how to cut $3.1 million from the City’s General Fund Budget for Fiscal Year Ending (FYE 2011).  The Woodward Dream Cruise, SMART Transportation Special Revenue Fund, Recreation Department, The Sidewalk Program and Department of Public Works all gave presentations.


Bruner also stated that by the end of the week they would know which union employees were taking voluntarily separations, and on Monday they will know what is going on with the collective bargaining agreements. 


The departments presented at the meeting generate 5% of revenue and cost 10% of budget.  These departments cost $1.1 million to the city annually.




This years Woodward Dream Cruise will be held on August 19, 20, 21.  Michael Leary, who had been Director since 2005, said it is his job to make sure that revenues match expenses for the event.  “All these events that we produce are non-city paid for expenses, paid for with sponsorships and vendor funds,” Leary said.  It is largely supported by C& G Newspapers, and last year they were able to get Ford Motor Company to underwrite advertising from them.  Eighteen team members and over 80 volunteers make the day special, and make sure that there are no costs to the City.  Events include Ferndale Emergency Vehicle Show, Lights & Sirens Curise, Mustang Alley, Fast Friday Events, Kids Play Zone, Rock’n Live Entertainment, Ferndale Classics and Cruis’n Legends Show. 


Of their budget, 26% is administrative, 14% operating, 37% contractual 14% merchandise, 9% promotions.  From 2004-2009 the cost of the event went from $120,000 down to $110,000.  Leary plans to further “cut back expenses by making sure sponsors make sure expenses have been coming out of their pockets.” 


Bob Bruners initial budget recommendation called for leaving the Dream Cruise budget in tact, because the event generates enough of its own revenue to pay for it.


“This event has been going on 15 years,” Mayor Craig Covey said.  “I want to commend you because in past years the City lost money.”  Only since Leary took over has it been a revenue-neutral event.  Covey also pointed out that whether the City participates in Dream Cruise or not, people are going to come out to Woodward and drive that weekend, so police presence would still need to be strong.


Melanie Piana said that Cruise Director Leary has been “instrumental in helping with other events” and helping to plan a recent ordinance that streamlines event applications processes.






The SMART Transportation Special Revenue Fund provides low-cost transportation to residents.  “Barb Turner and our drivers are instrumental to this program. This provides transportation for seniors, people with disabilities and general public willing to pay $2 per one-way trips.  Service is within 5 miles of Ferndale.  Hours are 9 A.M. to 4 P.M, Monday through Friday.  This program does cover its costs,” said Recreation Director Julie Hall.  “This program is key to getting seniors to and from our programs.” 


This program is likely to continue, although Councilperson Kate Baker cautions that future SMART funding may be in danger.  “The SMART milage will be up for renewal in 2 years and there are communities hoping to opt-out of the SMART program.  Just to make sure that you have all your antennas up, because as other communities opt out it will change what service we can provide,” Baker said.




Recreation Director Julie Hall was accompanied by over 50 seniors and others who use The Kulick Center at the budget meeting to ask the City not to eliminate their department, as is recommended in the “starting point” budget that the City is considering.  Hall reminded the council that in their 2008 Master Plan the city specifically said their vision was to enhance educational and recreation opportunities in the city. 


“When you look at city websites you don’t have pictures of structures, you have pictures of parks and of families having fun,” Hall said.


Since Hall was hired in August 2007 the Recreation Department has lost 3 full time employees (50% reduction), and 2 part time employees (41% reduction).    She proposes further elimination of two clerk typists, reduction of part-time employees.  This would leave them with three employees – a Director, a Rec. Supervisor, and a custodian.  Each employee would have an even higher work load, but it would allow them to “maximize access to the center for the residents.”  Hall hopes that volunteers, community service hours and interns from Jardon Vocational School will help fill the labor gaps.


She proposes limiting office hours from 10 am to 3 pm, the time when the center is most used by seniors and families with small children.


Core programs for the Recreation Department include: Summer Day Camp, Fitness Center, Senior Classes, Kids Corner, Romp & Stomp, Teen Center, Youth and Adult Classes, Rental and Reservations.  They currently don’t charge nonprofits for using the meeting rooms, and doesn’t propose starting too.  However if all meetings continued and they charged full price it would be $12,000 a year, although many groups would likely find other places to meet. 


Senior group has 209 members, drop-in programs are available daily.  Tri County Deaf Seniors meet weekly in the building.  Biggest cost of center is the annual maintenance contract for exercise machines at $1,200, which is made up for by fitness memberships.


The summer day camp has between 30-50 kids per week, and they partner with Ferndale Youth Assistance to get scholarships for children who can’t afford the fee.  Youth Leagues are self-supporting. 


Teen Center was opened last summer because there were so many teens hanging around the building, now there are over 120 members.  A pool table was donated and seniors have volunteered to teach the youth skills like cooking and ceramics. 


“Programs like the Eggstarvaganza and the Ferndale Family Campout provide residents a ‘staycation,’ which helps as budgets get tighter,” Hall said.


The proposal would move the day camp from The Ferndale Activity Center to The Kulick Center, which is less expensive for utilities.  They are looking into renting out the building during the summer months, or the facility may be closed for the summer and just used for storage. 


The net investment into Recreation proposed for FYE 2011 is $243,143.  This is 35% reduction in costs from last year’s budget.   


The state wide average for recreation spending is 5% of overall general fund budgets.  Hall also pointed out that if the Kulick Center closes the city may be required to repay grants, and there has been a $300,000 trust left to the Recreation Department which has not yet been received, but could also help reduce cost.


An alternate form of funding would be to vote in Public Act 39- Seniors.  This would cover the cost of the Kulick Center, but would need to be passed by the voters.


The General Fund investment by the city with Hall’s plan would be roughly $12.44 per year per resident, only 3 cents per resident per day. 


“As I indicated when I put the draft budget this year we wanted to show what the status quo would be,”  said City Manager Bob Bruner.  “The plan that Julie has put together now cuts that subsidy in half, to a quarter million dollars.  That means that the council would still have to find a quarter million dollars from someplace else to pay for this.”


“This is the largest turnout for a budget meeting we have had we appreciate having the public come in,”  Covey said. 


“I’ve been doing this nine years and I think there are more people here in this room tonight than in the past nine years worth of budget meetings,”  said Councilman Galloway.  “But let’s put this in perspective.  The police came up $600,000 short.  The Fire department is $900,000 short.  And your department is $250,000 short. We’re still $1.7 million short. Somebody is going to have to cut deeper.  The city manager came up with a budget, but it stinks.  But the numbers work. ...Where are we going to come up with that money?”


Council made no decisions as this meeting was only to get information from the departments.





Department of Public Works Director Byron Photiades spoke about the sidewalk replacement program, which assesses property owners for the cost of replacing damaged sidewalk slabs.  The replacements are done in a ten year cycle.  The majority of the work is funded by assessments, but the city pays for its share as a property owner.  The 2010 program is scheduled to start May 1st.  Photiates said they could save money by letting the individual in that position retire and hiring him back as a contractor.  After assessments there is a $95,000 cost for this program. 




The general fund for public works is $600,000, but most of the money for public works is covered by other funds. 


“In 1974 the DPW had 74 employees.  Since then we have let go 50 employees,”  said Photiades.  “We’re still doing what we did in 1974, but with a lot less people.  It’s about having experienced people.  But those are always behind the scene things that people don’t see.  Parks is a 24 hour operation.  We can clean the park on a Friday and someone can come in and have a picnic and the park is trashed by Sunday.  Personally I think the survey [used by the city to determine citizen satisfaction] itself needs some recognition because with the people we have we do a good job.


Photides has cut 20% from his budget by proposing to switch some workers from being employees to being contractors, and eliminating and reduces services, which meets with City Manager Bruner’s recommendations.  The services which might be cut include curbside collection of concrete, delivery of rock salt to seniors, changing the messages on the Chamber of Commerce sign in the median of 9 Mile and Woodward, Saturday compost distribution and eliminating the City tree planting service – which offers residents to buy a tree at the city discount and have it planted on their property.  He also included reduction of service in leaf collection, park mowing, snow removal, sewer maintenance, tree trimming and street sweeping.  Photiades will give presentations at the next couple of meetings, which cover specific fund budgets. He cautioned against further reductions in his department, saying that if the system starts to break down it will be more costly to repair it than to keep it cleaned and well-maintained.


“This council may not be here ten years from now, but if our infrastructure goes those problems will be inherited by a council in the future,” Photiades said.   “We’ve not had to pay a claim in ten years since I have been running DPW from sewer overflow.  People don’t notice these things.”


Melanie Piana questioned how many hours specific services take, such as delivering rock salt or helping people pick up composting. 


“We don’t break down to a performance based budget because we don’t have the people to do that.”  Photiades said.


Bruner added that in the past the city did track such things, but that as budgets have taken away the people “they have taken away the people steering to keep rowing.”


“Task time is at a premium, and we need to spend the time doing what we need to do,” Photiades said.


The Council meets again for a special meeting on April 7, 2010 at 6 P.M. at City Hall.  They will be hearing budget presentations from the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), Auto Parking Fund, Public Improvement Special Fund, Water and Sewer, Sewer Capital Improvement Fund and the General Obligation Debt Service Bond.


Presentations, agendas and minutes of Council Meetings are posted on the City of Ferndale website at http://www.ferndale-mi.com.  You can share your opinion about the budget talks by sending your opinion letter to editor@ferndale115.com. 

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