This article is republished from Press & Guide, originally written by Briana Gaskorski and can be found here.
The Dearborn City Council held its fourth of nine scheduled virtual study sessions and reviewed the police and fire portion of the 2021 budget on April 23.
Carole Rochon of the city’s finance department said that fire utilizes 85% of the general fund subsidy, which is $28 million of the 2021 proposed budget, while charges for services such as ambulance only makes up 14% of the budget.
Dearborn Fire Chief Joe Murray said there was a significant decrease in calls over the last year.
“Ambulance revenue is decreasing by $275,000,” he said. “We’ve had a reduction in calls and an increase in residents who are on Medicaid, so the reduction of revenue (is) from those contributors.”
Murray said this trend is the first decrease he’s seen since being with the department.
“There were a few hundred calls less over the last year,” he said. “Despite an acceleration in calls steadily over the last 10 years, there were less calls and we don’t know what will happen after this year with the way things are right now.”
Councilman David Bazzy said the time period affected by COVID-19 shouldn’t be factored in.
“If we are going to look at trends, we should be looking at pre-COVID trends,” he said. “We shouldn’t be looking at what’s been going on since March to make these decisions.”
While the total nondiscretionary proposed budget called for $14 million, Rochon said that will decrease.
“These numbers were as of the general fund overview budget workshop that began on April 1,” she said. “At the time we were still reworking the (annual required contribution) and fleet replacement sections so we expect this number to decrease by $1.2 million.”
Rochon also said that a large part of the difference in year-over-year numbers had to do with the (other post-employment benefits) bonding that council had approved in 2019, as well as some projects being moved forward.
“ARC contribution was reduced by approximately $730,000,” she said. “These numbers vary because of the bond. The fleet replacement will be reduced by $500,000 due to pulling ahead a pumper truck purchase to FY2020 and moving the purchase of two SUVs to FY2022.”
In the Police Department’s proposed 2021 budget, they’d be utilizing 34% of the general fund.
Councilman Mike Sareini said that the Police Department does not generate as much revenue as the Fire Department.
“The revenue from tickets and ordinances and things like that don’t go to the Police Department,” he said. “They go to courts and other areas instead, so the Police Department doesn’t have too much of a revenue (source).”
During the budget overview for police and fire, officials expressed what the difference would be if they added Dearborn Heights to centralized dispatch services, after having added Westland, Wayne, Inkster and Garden City to the dispatch services as of July 1.
While Dearborn Heights has remained neutral in the discussions in the past, Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad said they’re expressing interest.
“We’ve been in contact with Dearborn Heights to join and there has been interest expressed,” he said. “But they haven’t met in almost two months so I’m not sure if, how, or when their council would address that.”
Adding Dearborn Heights to the consolidated dispatch could lead to more than $800,000 in additional revenue for the city, but also could lead to additional costs as more dispatchers would need to be added.
“The budget for (Dearborn United Dispatch Center) for 2021 has an income of $2.4 million, but with Dearborn Heights added, it could be at $3.3 million,” Rochon said. “The cost for payroll and benefits without Dearborn Heights added would be about $3 million. But with them added, it would be about $3.6 million.”
Dearborn Council President Susan Dabaja said the current program should be examined more before the council decides to include more cities.
“Before we look to expand, I’d rather know how it’s currently going,” she said. “I’d like to know if there are any complaints from residents on response times and in general and also we need to know if it’s effective operationally and financially before we consider adding any other municipalities.”