The Brighton City Council has reached a consensus regarding recommendations made by a task force that was charged with coming up with ways to create new revenue. With a new budget year coming next July, the city is being hard-pressed to meet its statutory obligations of providing services to residents while maintaining a balanced budget.

According to City Manager Nate Geinzer, the City Council Fiscal Realities Task Force was given the daunting task of coming up with creative ways to fill a $2 million funding gap for investments in streets and other infrastructure. The city took a hit in August with the defeat of the Headlee Amendment millage override, which was earmarked for improving the city’s streets, by the relatively slim margin of 128 votes. The override would have totaled 4.35 mills and would have generated an estimated $1.85 million per year over 10 years.

Mayor Jim Muzzin appointed council members Jim Bohn, Jon Emaus and himself to the task force, which looked at city operations, infrastructure and other capital needs, pension and retiree health care costs, cuts in city services and overtime, cuts to community groups, revenues from new and increased fees, economic development, disposing of city property, paid parking and other ways to save money.

The task force came to the conclusion that the way to correct a $2 million revenue shortfall for the coming fiscal year was through a combination of service and staff reductions of one-half million dollars, another $500,000 coming from new non-street related millage revenues and a new street-related millage of 2.5 mills which would generate about $1.1 million. This would necessitate a voter-approved, 2.5-mill tax levy over 7 years in a May election. The 2.5 mills would mark a 40% reduction from the Headlee override defeat last August.

The proposed reductions would include a laundry list of items totaling half a million dollars such as eliminating one police officer position through attrition, cutting senior center funding, reorganizing administration, and contract concessions by city staff totaling $350,000. In addition, the task force lists another $500,000 in new revenues, including $250,000 from economic development, $150,000 in increased DDA contributions, $60,000 in civic event reimbursements and $40,000 from increased cemetery fees.

The civic event reimbursement portion, coming from increased fees charged to local businesses which sponsor the events, was a point of contention at last week’s City Council meeting, event organizers saying they can’t afford the proposed new fees. Geinzer says the long-term goal of these steps is to put Brighton on a sustainable path and allow it to continue to provide quality services, improve the infrastructure and weather the next fiscal challenge. (TT)