ESCANABA - The Escanaba City Council covered a lot of ground during its first day of work sessions on the 2009-10 budget at city hall Monday.
"I think the initial day of budget hearings, the detailed discussion with council was productive," said City Manager Jim O'Toole at the end of council's first day of reviewing the proposed finances together.
The city's overall budget is more than $32 million and includes the $7.5 million general fund budget. Other funds cover the utilities, streets, library, marina, capital improvements and the Downtown Development Authority.
At Monday's work sessions, council members and administration discussed the electric, water, wastewater and library funds in the morning. The afternoon session focused on public works, city engineer, public safety and the city clerk budgets. "It's been what I believe to be a very transparent budget process," O'Toole said, encouraging the public to take an active role in the financial process by attending budget meetings. The proposed budget can be accessed online at www.escanaba.org.
In his introduction to council, O'Toole outlined the pros and cons affecting the city's finances. Positive factors were new construction and an increased property tax base.
Negative factors included higher coal costs, increased power plant costs, a significant price hike in chemicals for water and wastewater, increased employee expenses, decreased water sales and declining state revenues.
Today's budget work sessions
Downtown Development Authority
Because of the economy, the city did not seek any millage increases in the budget, he said, though increased rates are being proposed for electric, water and wastewater. (See related story.)
O'Toole commented the city has been proactive rather than reactive with its finances. He also complimented city employees for doing a very good job.
During council's review of public safety's budget, council members praised Director Jim Hansen for his 33 years of service to the city. Hansen plans to retire next fall.
Budget work sessions, which are open to the public, continue this morning and go into the afternoon at city hall. A public hearing on the budget is planned for May 7. Another public hearing and adoption of the budget is scheduled for May 21.
Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, firstname.lastname@example.org