This article is republished from Press & Guide, originally written by Briana Gaskorski and can be found here.
On Tuesday night, the Dearborn City Council held its fifth of nine scheduled virtual study sessions related to the 2021 budget.
The council reviewed the Department of Public Works’ portion of the budget, which includes the Great Lakes Water Authority contract and the city’s water and sewer operations.
City accountant Corey Jarocki said 56% of the water and sewer budget is GLWA, which also makes up $30 million of the total water and sewer funds.
“There’s a variance in the adopted 2020 budget and the proposed 2021 budget of about $400,000 due to an increase in charges from GLWA,” he said. “Sewer increased by $251,800 and water by $158,600.”
Some of the rate issues being addressed with GLWA include expected refunds and reimbursements from FY2019 and a restoration of funds for asset management.
While the cost of utilities decreased from FY2020 to FY2021, the capital outlay and supplies increased significantly.
“There is an additional $105,000 budgeted for lead service line replacements which is included in the cost of supplies and materials,” Jarocki said. “And the variance from 2020 to 2021 in capital outlay is a $761,533 increase to $1.1 million — $475,000 of which is for the sewer fund for New Vactor, $500,000 is for new vehicles and equipment for the lead service line replacement which would include an F-150, utility crew truck, dump truck, two transit vans, mini excavator and trailer and also $160,000 for new water software.”
The lead service line replacement project is expected to cost $1.8 million; however, the city currently has a contract with C&P Construction for lead service line replacements in the amount of $2 million, which was funded by the water fund balance.
While public works takes up 10% of the general fund financing uses in the proposed 2021 budget, the all funds expenditures saw several decreases.
Completion of projects under the FY2020 budget led to a $350,000 decrease in the proposed budget, as well as a $100,000 decrease in salaries and a $15,000 decrease in fleet replacement.
Councilman Mike Sareini said the decrease in salaries is from projects throughout the fiscal year.
“We fund higher when we have projects to complete throughout the year,” he said. “So when the project is over, we no longer need those additional employees or services, so that can appear as a decrease in the budget.”
Sareini said while this was their fifth of nine budget workshops, he thinks they are going well, but there is still more work that needs to be done.
“The biggest takeaway for me is trying to get everyone to understand that while we look at each of these individually, yes they do look great,” he said. “But we will need to make cuts somewhere. I cannot support an unbalanced budget and we cannot keep raising taxes. We cannot spend more than we take in and we as a council have a lot more work to do on this to ensure that doesn’t happen.”