By Mike Kruzman /

Brighton City Council made a number of budget amendments that will help towards unfunded pension liabilities, thanking city staff, and setting the police department with needed help.

City Council met for the first time in their newly renovated board room, Thursday night.

On the agenda were four budget recommendations from City Manager Nate Geinzer. The first was to contribute an additional $500,000 towards its unfunded liabilities. The City currently has 64% funded, which, while up from last year, is still around 10% under what comparable municipalities are at, according to their most recent financial audit. Geinzer believes that if the City is fiscally able to add this extra amount going forward, then in 10 years they could be at 100%.

Councilmember Jon Emaus took it a step further and motioned to take the money from Geinzer’s second recommendation and add it to the first. The second recommendation was for $250,000 for street projects, but Emaus and Mayor Pro-Tem Susan Gardner felt they were already tracking well with their street work. While millage, bonding, and grant opportunities are available for roads, Emaus said pension help is much more limited. The extra payment can also be seen as a sign of good faith to pensioners who made concessions a couple years ago to help the City.

The contribution will come from assigned general fund dollars. The assigned fund is used more like guidelines for how the City would like to spend it or in what areas, but is not necessarily dedicated to being spent in a specific way. It will have no effect on the City’s $1.786-million unassigned general fund balance. That balance is at roughly 24% of City expenditures and a healthy amount over the 15% required.

Council approved the motion by a 5-1 vote, with Kris Tobbe voting against it. Tobbe said during discussion he was a little apprehensive about shifting money away from roads.

The third recommendation by Geinzer was to give all City staff, excluding himself, a one-time thank you bonus for their work during the pandemic. This was also approved 5-1, and as such, those who didn’t receive any CARES Act hazard pay will get a 1.5% bonus based on yearly pay. Those who did receive hazard pay will get 1%. Finance Director Gretchen Gomolka said this was a common discussion between municipalities around the state right now, with many doing it. Jim Bohn was the dissenting vote, saying it presents a bit of an optics problem when they are asking residents for a Headlee Amendment override 2.5 years ago due to not having money for streets, and are now sending out thank you bonuses.

Finally, Geinzer recommended giving an extra $18,000 to the police department for the hiring of an officer when the academies end. The City is expecting a retirement next summer, and the idea is that this new hire can get trained and be ready to step up into the position, eliminating what would normally be an employment gap. This recommendation was approved unanimously.