Following months of work, the Howell city budget is headed toward adoption.

City Council met Monday night and held another budget work session prior to the start of the meeting. City Manager Shea Charles says Council had the opportunity to review the proposed 2019-2020 budget, which is the culmination of several months of work since the November Headlee election and corresponding rejection of the request by voters. Charles tells WHMI Council has worked together with staff over last couple of months to identify some structural changes and trim roughly $240,000 to $250,000 out of the budget, which is attributed to structural issues. Howell, like most cities, is faced with structural budget challenges, in part due to what officials say is a broken state funding model. Since 2003, the state has reallocated statutory revenue sharing to balance its budget. The City has been making cuts and changes for years due to the structural issues and that’s continuing with the proposed 2019/2020 budget, although it’s getting more difficult now. Charles says they had a little bit stronger than anticipated revenue growth and grew fund balance by $26,000 on the general fund, which is roughly a $7 (m) million operation. He says Council went through the budget and different funds and was pleased, with changes made based on staff requests and other items.

As for proposed cuts, many are smaller things behind the scenes that most residents likely won’t notice. Charles says the most visible changes involve eliminating sidewalk snow removal along Grand River, except for the central business district. Holiday decorations will also be eliminated downtown, except for a small stretch along Grand River from Chestnut to Barnard Street. A currently vacant position in the police department will also be eliminated. Other proposed cuts include eliminating the city calendar and mayor pins, making no transfer to the streets fund, lower accelerated pension payments and eliminating Arbor Day activities and the neighborhood tree program unless the city receives outside sponsorships. Charles says the big issue long term is going to be infrastructure investment. He noted there is no infrastructure investment beyond projects that have at least 80% grant funding. Beyond that, Charles says unfortunately they’ll continue to see the degradation of roads and streets throughout the city and that’s what will be more prevalent as time goes along. He stressed the need is still out there and significant so that will be the greater challenge long term.

The budget will be up for adoption at the May 6th meeting. (JM)