After Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje presented his “State of the City” address Monday night, city officials prepared to meet the tasks set out for them in the next fiscal year : the budget, transportation, snow removal, affordable housing and forming a closer relationship with the University while remaining bipartisan.
“Ann Arbor”s greatest resource, though, has always been its people,” Hieftje said Monday. “Utilizing that natural resource, I believe, is the best way for us to move forward.”
“It”s going to be a challenge,” Councilwoman Wendy Woods (D-Ward V) said yesterday. “It”s going to require that we build up some consensus and make some changes.”
Hieftje presented the council with a proposal to cut the budget of all programs 4 percent because of increasing expenditures in the next year. Revenues from the city are estimated at $89.5 million, and the expected expenditures at the current plan are projected at $93.25 million, leaving an expected $3.75 million deficit at current funding.
City Administrator Neil Berlin, who will present the budget to the council at the second meeting in April, said he will be working with council members in the next few months to assess the cuts.
“We”re looking at moderate spending increases, but we want to keep taxes low and still provide capital,” Berlin said, adding that he had not addressed the consequences of cutting funding from programs.
Councilwoman Jean Carlburg (D-Ward III) said the address given by Hieftje reflected some of the concerns of council.
“I thought it was a factual, accurate description of the goals and challenges we face,” said Carlburg. “We determined we wanted to stay within our revenues and this is the only way.”
Hieftje said yesterday he does not feel the proposed budget cuts will decrease the effectiveness of city programs.
“We will be able to maintain services at the same level,” Hieftje said. “We just have to look for greater efficiencies.”
Also discussed Monday night were the snow removal efforts that the city has been undertaking.
“As I see it, getting snow off neighborhood streets during snow emergencies is just another way of demonstrating that neighborhoods matter,” Hieftje said in his address.
“Transportation is the key,” he said yesterday. “What”s the point of clearing streets and walkways if no one is using them? We need to promote more walking and bicycling we have to find better ways to work with the citizenry.”
Carlburg said yesterday that snow removal and transportation are very important issues that need to be examined.
“I definitely believe we want to have a better program that moves snow, especially for school children and those using buses,” she said.
City officials also responded to Hieftje”s promise of increased relations with the University.
“It is a very good thing that they are trying to work together,” Councilwoman Joan Lowenstein (D-Ward II) said. “The University is a citizen and it has responsibility to the other citizens.”
Jim Kosteva, director of community relations for the University, said the relationship with the city has been very good and will continue to be because of increased communication.
“We find that there are numerous areas where we can find mutual benefits,” he said. “We look forward to seeing more as they come up.”
In addition to working together this past winter on the snow removal effort, the city and the University have been planning their first joint project, the Forest Avenue Parking structure that will be completed this year, Kosteva said.