By ANDREA POTEET
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – Residents will have two milages before them when they vote in the November general election.
City councilors voted Aug. 23 to place on the ballot a proposal for 3.5 mills to support the Fire and Police departments and a second to offset the estimated $1.5 million the city has used annually to subsidize the former studio property on Southfield Road.
The public safety millage would net about $2.6 to $3 million, enough to return both departments to 2010 staffing levels, 28 people for the Fire Department, which currently has a staff of 23, said Carl Johnson, of the city’s interim financial manager firm, Plante & Moran.
But, Johnson said, even the millage’s passing would not secure those staffing levels after the 2012 fiscal year ends in June if the city encounters another deficit.
“You must balance your budget,” Johnson said. “Decisions have to be made and the decision may be that reductions have to take place.”
Fire Chief Douglas LaFond told the council he’d be happy to maintain the 23 firefighters he currently has.
Councilman Kevin Rourke responded, briefly discussing the negotiations between the city and Fire Department’s regarding the department union’s closed contract, which have continued since February, when the council issued and later rescinded layoff notices to the entire Fire Department. The “heavy hitter,” of the negotiations, Rourke said, have been benefit costs for the Fire Department.
“Our costs continue to skyrocket,” Rourke said. “So it’s not going to change a staffing level. The benefit costs are still going to have to be addressed.”
“We’ve been negotiating for a long time,” Mayor Tony Lalli said. “Things just aren’t happening. It just ain’t working right. You guys want to make it work and we’ll have to make it work somehow. And it will probably be soon.”
The debt reduction millage would subsidize the studio center property and save the city from continuing to shell out $1.5 to $2 million in general fund dollars for it, Johnson said. Councilors would vote on the amount of the millage, which could be levied up to the annual debt service for the bonds associated with the property, each year.
“The goal is obviously to get that property back up to where it supports itself,”Johnson said. “The studio fund is out of money and is out of money annually between $1.5 and $2 million and the general fund does have to pick it up. So when we talk about laying off police, fire, et cetera, it’s partially because we have to subsidize that property.”