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Monday, April 1,2013

Kids in the Hall

Budget hearings round 1: Fees and revenues

by Andy Balaskovitz
Monday, April 1 — The Lansing City Council kicked off its weekly budget hearings under President Carol Wood tonight with a look at how the Bernero administration proposes bringing in new revenue to the city.

Particularly, the Council focused on Mayor Virg Bernero’s proposal to charge city Board of Water and Light customers for streetlight and fire hydrant services. Customers would pay the fees to the publicly owned utility, rather than the city’s paying through the General Fund.

Residential and commercial customers would be charged based on their water and electricity usage. The administration figures the average residential customer will pay $21 annually for streetlights and $25 annually for fire hydrants, or $46 a year. It would be more or less than that based on usage. The average commercial customer would pay $78 annually for streetlights and $1,316 for hydrants, according to the administration, or about $1,394 a year.

Finance Director Angela Bennett did not readily have available the charge per kilowatt hour or the amount of water used. For residential customers, the administration also maintains that a predicted drop in property values will offset these costs.

The city now pays $5.5 million annually out of the General Fund for these BWL services. It’s represented as a decrease in expenditures in the mayor’s budget, Bennett said.

Bennett pointed to Kalamazoo as a city that operates under this concept and that has a publicly owned utility when asked if there are similar models by Councilman Brian Jeffries.

Wood asked the administration — which was represented by Bennett, Chief of Staff Randy Hannan and Chief Operations Officer Chad Gamble — how much the city would pay the BWL under the proposal. None of the three had an answer.

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The administration is also projecting an over $300,000 increase in state revenue sharing dollars, up to $13,438,300 from $13,097,248 projected to come in at the end of this fiscal year.

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Revenue from property taxes is expected to be $1.5 million less next year than what’s projected to come in at the end of this fiscal year, which ends June 30. The administration is budgeting for about $37.5 million next fiscal year. Bennett said this is due to declining property values. The administration expects to see a slight increase — about $300,000 — in income tax revenue.

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In the code compliance division, the administration is budgeting for about $350,000 more in revenue compared to what it brought in at the end of the last fiscal year — up to just over $2 million. Bennett said the administration is expecting “better enhancement and capabilities” after combining some code compliance services with the Fire Department. Public safety revenues are also projected to increase by nearly $700,000 from fiscal year 2012, due in large part to increased ambulance fees.
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