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City council approves budget for fiscal year 2015

By Matthew Jackonen, Daily Staff Reporter
Published May 19, 2014

This year proved once again that the process to debate and sign a budget for the city of Ann Arbor is not an easy one.

City council had seventeen separate amendments to the $334 million fiscal year 2015 city budget on its plate Monday night.

Of the numerous amendments, two focused on police funding.

Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski (D–Ward 5) sponsored the first of the two, which asked to reallocate $95,000 of the community engagement police budget toward programs to prevent and treat drug usage and addiction.

The amendment would have reduced the proposed increase in police staffing to provide additional funding to drug treatment programs.

However, the amendment was rejected with only Warpehoski and Margie Teall (D–Ward 4) voting in its favor.

Warpehoski said many ex-drug addicts told him that because many ex-drug addicts told him getting treatment was the most important step in moving forward.

“I saw the increase in police (in the budget) at a time when our crime rates are at historic lows,” Warpehoski said. “I did not see that as the best allocation of public resources to promote public health, safety and welfare.”

Councilmember Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3) said simply increasing funding for treatment would not necessarily spark change, and reducing the suggested increase in policemen would hinder the goal of creating a more proactive police force.

“It seems kind of naïve to think that if we just gave more money to treatment, people are just going to walk in the door and ask voluntarily for help with their heroin abuse,” Kunselman said.

Councilmember Sally Hart Petersen (D-Ward 2) agreed that additional policemen are a more pressing need for the city at this point.

“I want there to be more funds available for mental health issues and addiction issues,” Petersen said. “I just don’t want them to come from additional policemen.”

Councilmembers Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2), Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4) and Sumi Kailasapathy (D–Ward 1) sponsored an amendment to add two more officers to the already three additional officers proposed in the fiscal year 2015 budget.

The amendment was voted down, and only Councilmembers Mike Anglin (D–Ward 5), Lumm, Kailasapathy and Eaton voted in favor of it.

Lumm said that the police force has seen a dramatic decrease in the last few decades, and thus argued the city should attempt to increase the amount of policemen in order to create more “proactive” crime prevention.

However, Mayor John Hieftje said he doesn’t see a need for the increase in police. He also said in response to an earlier argument by Lumm in the 1980s and 1990s there was a police build-up due to a crime problem that is no longer present.

He noted that the University also now has a significant 55-officer force that effectively promotes public safety on campus.

Eaton said city council should need the advice of John Seto, the city’s chief of police, by adding these additional officers. He specifically mentioned that it does not take the city back to staffing levels in the 1980s and 1990s, but offers a small increase.

“We have to trust the professional that we hired,” Eaton said.

City council discuss ways to decrease emissions

Councilmember Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3) along with Mayor John Hieftje, Teall and Warpehoski sponsored an amendment to take $50,000 from the proposed Ellsworth Road study as well as an added $75,000 from fund reserves in an attempt to decrease the city’s emissions.

The amendment will invest the money in areas such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation.

Councilmember Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) said she was concerned about whether or not this amendment would be self-sustaining should it continue past the upcoming year, but City Administrator Steve Powers said the goal is self-sustainment.

While some councilmembers relayed fears that the amendment might turn into an annual expenditure, Taylor said, though it does not call for a full-time city employee, he hopes one day there will be one dedicated to combating climate change.

“It is entirely consistent with Ann Arbor’s deepest held values of environmental leadership and stewardship,” Taylor said.

Lumm, Kunselman, Eaton, Anglin and Kailasapathy all voted against the amendment, but it was ultimately passed.

City council unanimously approve two street funding, deer control

The first of two street funding amendments passed resolves to study alternatives to street funding without an increase or reallocation of proposed funds.

The other will reallocate a proposed $75,000 intended for a sign inventory to be used instead to control deer and other animal populations.

While three of the candidates in the upcoming mayoral election – Petersen, Briere and Taylor – sponsored at least one amendment to the city administrator’s proposed budget, Kunselman did not.

He warned against the “unintended consequences of overextending” within the city budget and said they are why he chose not to “tinker” with the proposed budget.