September 2, 2014

Standish passes 2014-15 budget

Sets millage, water and sewer rates for upcoming fiscal year

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STANDISH — A decrease in the city’s valuation and a loss incurred from legislation exempting some businesses from personal property tax has the city of Standish looking at a slight decrease in revenues and expenses for next fiscal year.

City council approved the 2014-15 budget unanimously April 21. Revenues and expenditures are projected at $946,194 for next year.

The projected revenues are about $12,000 lower than what the city expects to generate in the current fiscal year, which ends in July.

“Valuations went down almost $1 million in the city, so we’re looking at fewer tax dollars coming in,” said City Manager Curt Hillman.

Lower property values in the residential sector pushed the valuation down, despite an uptick in industrial properties, according to Hillman. He said the city is also expecting to lose $30,000 due to personal property tax being waived for businesses with less than $80,000 in taxable value in personal property, per legislation passed earlier this year.

Although the city is losing revenue from the legislation, Hillman said it will have a more significant impact on the city’s downtown development authority, which will capture about $20,000 less in tax increment financing monies.

“When DDA was created, the valuation of all the properties within the downtown development district were set at a certain amount of dollars; all of the valuation that goes up between then and now, they’re able to capture that increase,” he said. “The DDA for a number of years was going down because there was nothing to capture.”

In other city council news, the council approved the 2014-15 operating millage for the city. Council members voted to continue to levy 16.742 mills in operational monies.

“That’s been the same for at least five years, maybe even more than that,” Hillman said.

While the operating millage will stay the same, water and sewer rates are changing per council approval, with one increasing and the other decreasing.

Hillman said water rates will be increased from $6.75 per thousand gallons used to $7.15 per thousand gallons. Sewer rates, on the other hand, will be lowered from $6.85 per thousand gallons to $6.35, Hillman said.

“The net change to in-town residents is nothing,” he said. “It just helps us put more money in the water department to cover some expenses there.”

According to Hillman, the city’s water infrastructure is in greater need of repairs than the sewer infrastructure. He said several valves need to be replaced throughout the city, and water lines are in need of maintenance and repair.

The city council also took steps toward giving Department of Public Works employees more time to focus on working on the water system by making changes to yard waste pickup. Hillman said DPW employees have been doing weekly pickups, which is chewing up many of the hours for city workers.

Instead of continuing to do weekly pickups, which Hillman said have been done because residents have been placing limbs, leaves and shrubs in the street creating eyesores and plugging gutters — also violating the city’s ordinance — the city will have two spring pickups. Residents will be able to dump yard debris behind the city’s DPW garage on M-61 to get rid of the yard waste themselves.

“There is a place back there where they can put it and we’ll haul it away once we get enough to do it,” Hillman said.

He added that construction debris or other items that are not classified as yard waste will not be allowed at the DPW site. Hillman said there will be two pickups this spring —May 5 and May 19 — and then there would not be another scheduled one until the fall.

“This routine stuff of picking stuff up every week has to come to an end,” he said. “It’s becoming too much of a mess. People are putting it in the gutter.”

“Some houses put it out every day of the week, for the whole summer, and have piles that are 3-4 feet tall, and it’s just making the town look bad,” Hillman told the council Monday.

A weekly collection has also started to take its toll on the city’s front-end loader, which Hillman said needed tires replaced, costing $4,000. It has also taken up DPW time, meaning other necessary work has been neglected, Hillman said.

“It does affect what goes on at other times, because now my DPW doesn’t have time to be working on water main repairs, valve repairs and other things they need to be doing,” he said.

In an attempt to alleviate the issue of people leaving yard waste in the streets, the city council has been working on creating a civil infraction process for offenders. April 21 the city also took another step toward making that a reality by approving the first reading of a civil infraction ordinance. The second reading is expected to be passed during next month’s meeting, which would mean the ordinance was adopted.

Adoption would mean issues such as yard waste left in the streets illegally, as well as people not clearing their sidewalks in the winter, could result in a ticket from the city.

“We shouldn’t have to discuss any of this anymore,” said Mayor Mark Winslow. “It’s a law. It’s on the books.”

However, during the civil infraction discussion, some questions about fine-tuning were raised.

“In regards to the sidewalks too, what are you going to do with the residents who don’t have a big enough driveway that have their cars parked blocking the sidewalk?” said Councilman Ray Koroleski.

“Somehow or other they’ve got to find some way to park the vehicles so they’re not parked in the sidewalk,” Hillman said.

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