Plainwell city approves budget for 2018-19

By: 
Daniel Pepper

Plainwell city approved a 2018-19 budget which will slightly decrease its fund balance from 20 percent to 19 percent.
City manager Erik Wilson said, “Our auditor wants us at 15 to 20 percent and we estimate we’re right there at 19 percent.”
The overall budget shows a deficit, but Wilson said that was mainly based on planned capital improvement projects outside the general fund.
“The exception is in solid waste, which pays for the bulk trash, leaf and brush pickups,” he said.
Wilson reviewed the historical trends leading up to the budget, reviewing taxable values from 2009 to estimates for 2018 showing that Plainwell still had not fully recovered from the 2008 economic crisis.
“We still aren’t back to the level we were at when the economy went downhill in 2007-08,” he said. “...We still, over a decade later, aren’t back to where we were.”
The city’s current taxable value of all properties is $77,571,311.
City clerk/treasurer Brian Kelley said Wilson had done a good job of bringing the budget in at its current level.
“When we looked at the budget with the wishlist and projects planned, we were almost $900,000 in the hole, so Mr. Wilson did a lot of work on that,” Kelley said.
The largest portion of the budget’s expenses are public safety, with the city’s combined police and fire operations coming in at 57 percent of the general fund budget or $1.1 million.
The budget included a list of capital projects which will still have to chose which will use the $90,000 set aside.
It includes a police cruiser and equipment for use by a potential school resource officer, with the city hoping to find a partner along with Plainwell Community Schools to cover part of the costs.
“We have a meeting set up with Cooper township, we just don’t have firm numbers on that yet,” Wilson said.
Another planned expense is $15,000 for mill roof repairs.
“We seem to need that every year, so it will probably be a recurring line item from now on,” Wilson said.
The budget includes repaving for Wedgewood Drive and East Chart Street and spot repairs and crack-filling for several other streets, including Starr Road.
It also plans engineering costs for a planned major project for next year which could completely reconstruct Sherwood Street.
In addition to the age of the street and underlying infrastructure, the city hopes the project will fix or reduce problems with river water getting into the sanitary sewer during floods and times the water table is very high. A cross connection somewhere in the Sherwood Street area leads to the problem which leads to the output of the city’s treatment plant more than doubling.
The city noted its combined costs for water and sewer ranked 30th out of 50 comparable communities, with the water costs ranking at 39th and the sewer at 17th.
City council members held a public hearing on the budget and then passed it on a unanimous vote.
Council members also approved an amendment to the 2017-18 budget that closed out the year, including the loss of expected revenue sharing to replace the personal property tax.
Kelley said the city had found costs savings and cuts to offset much of it during the fiscal year.

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