By Tom Tolen /

By a razor-thin margin, the Brighton City Council has adopted a revised city budget for the coming fiscal year.

The city’s budget was approved on a narrow, 4-3 vote at council’s online meeting Thursday night. The general fund budget for fiscal year 2020-21, totaling $9.44 million, marks a major decrease from the $10.42 million budget presented in April, resulting in a projected fund balance that is nearly a million dollars higher than in the original proposed budget. At budget work sessions, council wrestled with striking a balance between the highest priority items and those of lesser priority in the face of a strained local and state economy that has been damaged by the COVID-19 virus outbreak, with its forced business closures by executive order and stay-at-home directives.

However, the nearly $979,000 in cuts made by City Manager Nate Geinzer, who as city manager is charged with formulating the city budget each year, did not appear to go far enough for some of council’s members. Voting yes on the motion were Mayor Shawn Pipoly, Mayor Pro Tem Susan Gardner and council members Jim Muzzin and Jon Emaus, while council members Jim Bohn, Renee Pettengill and Kris Tobbe voted no. Pettengill told WHMI that she voted no because, in her words, “There’s a lot of uncertainty, and….we need to be as conservative as possible.” Bohn said, in his words, “Given the unknowns…especially COVID-19 and small businesses, there is going to be an effect on (the city’s) revenue and property taxes,” adding his vote was to not spend any money unless it’s "absolutely necessary."

In the revised budget, the estimated amount of state revenue sharing funds, as well as Act 51 road funds have been reduced by 10-15%. Also, phase two of the Rickett Road improvement program, extending from the railroad tracks to the south city limits, has been moved from a cash expense to be part of a bonded program that will be combined with the Northwest neighborhood bond project. The city will also be reducing or delaying staff hiring and filling vacancies, reducing the number of staff workshops and conferences and reducing the tree trimming and sidewalk program. However, the sidewalk maintenance and replacement program will continue, although the program to fill gaps in sidewalks will be deferred.

The budget as passed does not include the 2020-21 fee schedule or the city millage rate for the coming year, which begins July 1st. Geinzer said fees — including the utility fees, which will go up 15% for the typical user - will be adopted at the May 21st meeting. Also to be acted on at that meeting is the city’s millage rate which will be reduced by 1.66% as a result of a state-mandated Headlee rollback. The Headlee Amendment to the state constitution requires that a local government’s property tax millage be rolled back proportionately if property taxes in the past year have risen more than the lower of 5% and the inflation rate.