By J. PATRICK PEPPER
HEIGHTS — Scarce business loans and continually declining tax revenues pose significant challenges to city growth in 2010, Mayor Daniel Paletko said last week in his seventh State of the City address.
The city projects a 15 percent drop in property values, or about $2 million less in tax receipts this year, he said, adding that the revenue decline is double what the city had to cut from the 2009 budget. He also noted that state revenue sharing funds, which were slashed by $700,000 in 2009, could be eliminated altogether in 2010.
But despite the dour predictions, six straight budget surpluses have left the city in relatively good financial standing, and like last year, Paletko said he will seek to have the city absorb the looming deficit.
“Times are hard and we need to help our residents stay in our homes and our businesses to remain to offer us their goods and services,” he said. City officials will continue to look for ways to reduce operating costs in 2010, Paletko said. To that end, the city currently is in negotiations with five employee unions.
He delivered the address on Jan. 12 to a Dearborn Heights Chamber of Commerce-sponsored luncheon at Warren Valley Banquet Center. Consequently, much of his speech was aimed at the business community.
Paletko encouraged business owners to reach out to new Community and Economic Development Director Ron Amen, who has targeted Warren Avenue commercial growth as his top priority.
Paletko said tight credit markets stifled several current or potential business owners in 2009, that and the same is likely to happen in 2010. Because of the short capital supply, he said, the city spent most of its economic development efforts trying to maintain and improve existing businesses — which was the same case in 2008.
At the top of Paletko’s list was the $5 million remodel at one of the largest employers in Dearborn Heights, Kroger, 26400 Ford Road, which features a new Kroger-brand gas station in The Heights Shopping Center.
“This investment ensures that Kroger will be a part of our community for years to come,” he said.
Paletko also gave a nod to the 17 new businesses that did manage to open doors in 2009, among them an urgent care facility, three dollar stores, two bakeries, two restaurant and an indoor-baseball training facility on Van Born Road.
For 2010, Paletko announced an initiative to create rain gardens, which are planted depressions designed to absorb stormwater runoff, throughout the city. In the spring the city will use grant money to create a rain garden at the Richard A. Young Recreational Center.
The city then will offer a series of free seminars to residents who want to plant their own rain gardens. The Dearborn Heights Watershed Stewards Commission, the Garden Club and the City Beautiful Commission are sponsoring the initiative.
“The hope is to beautify the city while at the same time reducing the amount of storm water flows during rain events into the Ecorse Creek,” Paletko said.
He closed his speech by underscoring the importance that all residents participate in the upcoming 2010 census, pointing out that both city libraries as well as the Salvation Army on Telegraph have walk-in census facilities for residents to find out more.