Shelby Township sets 2015 top 10 priorities; community center, roads lead list

2015 Priorities SlideWith the finalization of its 2015 priorities set, Shelby Township government is ready to move ahead.

The priorities came from information gleaned from the annual community visioning process highlighted by a Nov. 13 meeting with the public and an online survey, township department heads meeting Oct. 29 and a Nov. 6 Board of Trustees work session.

Tabulation giving all three groups equal weight saw addressing “Community Center Needs” at the 41-Distrct Court, the Shelby Township Library, the Shelby Township Senior Center and Shelby TV as the township’s top priority.

“We crossed our top priority for the previous year off our list in 2014 when the Board and the police and fire unions reformed and funded our police and fire pension funds,” Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis said. “And it’s no surprise that last year’s No. 2 issue moved up to the top of the list this year.

“Our Board continues to examine this issue from all angles, and we are confident we will find a resolution that serves all parties involved in the most cost-effective manner possible. As with any issue we need to serve our taxpayers, but we also need to keep costs to a minimum while doing so.”

While community center needs topped the list, a new initiative came in at No. 2 with all three parties throwing support behind plans to widen Schoenherr Road north of 23 Mile Road.

“This is a great initiative for our Township for a number of reasons,” Stathakis said. “I think it tells us that our residents understand that necessary sacrifice we need to make in funding and convenience to invest in our improved roads. Despite living through an unprecedented summer of increased road work, they are still committing to a major project like widening Schoenherr Road for the betterment of our community.”

More road investment was third among the overall top-10 priorities represented by “fund local road improvements.” Investigate new revenue sources, sidewalk construction and maintenance, reduce operational costs, Stony Creek Trail bridge replacement, implement economic development initiative, 23 Mile and Mound Roads redevelopment, and emergency management training rounded out the remaining priorities.

In addition to the traditional priorities, this year’s online survey allowed residents an opportunity to pinpoint concerns and leave specific comments about areas of need for a more personalized view of their input.

“While these comments are not easily quantifiable, it does appear there may be strong support for revising ordinances to restrict oil wells, oil and gas pipelines, heavy trucks and incentives to redevelop existing commercial properties,” said John Kaczor of Municipal analytics, who compiled all facets of the visioning process to form the priorities.

The priorities are a part of the Board of Trustees continued efforts to have government in Shelby Township be more participatory, and Stathakis hopes that the township can continue to make better use of its website and social media tools to make it easier for residents to submit priorities for 2016 and beyond.

“When I got into this, Township government wasn’t participatory enough for me, and this is what this is about,” Stathakis said of the priorities. “Residents can tell us how they want their money spent and now they can tell us, with pinpoint accuracy, where they believe that money should be spent”

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Shelby Township forecasts surpluses for all major funds in 2015, first since 2009

Following historic moves to fully fund the police and fire pension plan and transfers from the Shelby Township General Fund to its Police Fund, all three major funds supported by local tax millages are forecasted to run surpluses in 2015.

If realized, the township’s run into the black will be just the second time it has occurred since 2006, and shows a near complete rebound from the economic downturn in 2008 when property values and tax revenue plummeted.

“From the Board of Trustees to our employees and residents, we have all come together in the past six years to do more with less and work together for the good of our community,” Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis said. “I am very proud to relay this good news to our residents and taxpayers, but even more proud of the work everyone has done to make this turnaround a reality without raising taxes.”

While the General Fund has seen surpluses every year, and the fire department has posted four surpluses since the majority of the Board was elected in 2008, the police department  has not had a surplus since 2009.

“The initiative our police department has shown by continuing to provide the best service possible without increasing costs is more than impressive,” Stathakis said. “Captain Steve Stanbury has done an excellent job leading the department through this process, as our officers worked with the Board to right these issues.”

A key part of the puzzle behind these forecasted surpluses was a transfer of the approximate value of .18 mils from the General Fund to the Police Fund that totaled $503,940 in 2014.

“This budget transfer was made to give our police department the financial stability it needs to maintain service while we seek more longstanding  fixes to budgetary issues,” Stathakis sad. “This is by no means a long-term fix, but it gives us more time to affect the real, systemic changes we need to ensure financial stability and security in the police department.”

One of the “systemic” fixes that has already been realized to add stability to the police and fire department finances was the recent sale of bonds to fully fund the pension for retired police officers and firefighters.

“The fully-funded pension gives us more stability as it allows us to budget a more uniform annual contribution to maintain the pension fund,” Finance Director Allan McDonald said. “It also will reduce costs by giving us a lower interest rate on payments.”

Some of the hurdles that still need to be cleared are  additional cost reductions within the police department to offset the need for the .18 mill transfer, as well as funding retiree healthcare obligations more thoroughly.

“We know there are still challenges ahead, but we also know they can be met because of the strides we’ve seen in other Township departments,” Stathakis said. “For example, our general employees have done an amazing job cutting costs and maintaining first-rate services since 2008, and this gives us a blueprint for future changes we need.

“Thanks to our general employees, and the Board of Trustees, the General Fund has projected surpluses in 2014 and 2015 despite more than $1 million transferred to the Police Fund and projected expenditures of $2 million for roads and sidewalks in that time — without raising taxes.”

Shelby Township DPW minimizes 2015 DWSD rate increase, reduces costs

The Shelby Township Department of Public Works’ true cost of water and sewer service continues to lessen the financial impact on residents and businesses as the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department increases its wholesale rates.

Following a 6 -1 vote at the Dec. 16 meeting, the Board of Trustees adopted rates of $3.603 per hundred cubic feet for water and $4.660 for sewer, effective Jan. 1, 2015.

“By the year 2015, we will be charging $3.603, not the old methodology rate of $5.320,” said Department of Public Works Director David Miller of the savings realized by his department’s true cost of water. “By 2016, we will be showing savings to our rate payers of a little over half a million dollars.”

Since the Board of Trustees adopted the true cost of service initiative in 2009 cost increases to residents and businesses have been minimized by improved efficiency and reduced costs within the Shelby Township DPW.

The DPW has decreased operating expenses for water by nearly 10 percent for a reduction of costs of approximately $300,000 from 2009 to 2015. In that same time, DWSD has increased water costs over 30 percent.

“We have no control over water costs because they are passed on to us,” Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis said. “But, the controllable costs that the DPW does have, they are controlling and those costs have been in decline since 2009.

“The increases are not as staggering as they could be based on the good stewardship of our Board and our Water and Sewer Department in protecting our reserves. “

Currently, there are no other water sources that can meet the township’s existing regular daily needs, as well as the peak hour max day demands. Miller stated that these, as well as the township’s annual volume of usage, are the primary drivers for rates.

Shelby Township Board, Solid Waste and Recycling Committee award first give-back grant

pi5eKkkiBAs if recycling did not pay dividends enough, the Shelby Township Board of Trustees and the Solid Waste and Recycling Committee found another way to make the world a better place with funds raised at the township’s monthly electronics recycling event.

Through the township’s contract with Vintage Tech Recyclers, which runs the monthly collection of items, such as computers, DVD players and other electronics on the final Saturday of every month, the Solid Waste and Recycling Committee established the Community Give-Back Program in 2013.

This program allows charitable and community organizations to earn funds by volunteering at the events or through a “community benefactor” grant. The first grant was awarded Dec. 16 as the Board of Trustees presented $10,000 to the Shelby Township Parks and Recreation Committee to be used for a new splash park at Chief Gene Shepherd Park.

“Shelby Township has the only recurring monthly electronics recycling event in the entire state of Michigan, so this award is a way of making a great situation even better,” said Trustee and SWARC member Paula Filar. “We’ve been able to keep tons of toxic materials out of landfills and raise funds to help charities and beautify one of our parks. It’s truly remarkable”

“I think it’s a great idea, and a way to raise funds for groups that will make Shelby Township a better place,” Township Supervisor Richard Stathakis said. “We are always looking for new revenue streams, and this is a great one.”

The program allows for two groups to benefit from each monthly collection with a “co-sponsoring organization” earning funds tied directly to that month’s collection earning 25 percent of the revenue received from that event, or $250 — whichever is greater.

“Co-sponsoring organizations are able to participate in receiving some of the funds,” Filar said. “In order to be a co-sponsoring organization, organizations must be a 501(c)(3) service organization or public educational organization within Shelby Township.

“It is required that 51 percent overall of the organization’s charitable efforts need to be spent on Shelby Township residents. And the organization must be run by non-paid volunteers, or a very low percentage of their revenue must be used to pay administrative costs,” Filar added.

The second beneficiary is an annual “community benefactor” such as the Parks and Recreation Committee, whose 2014 grant came from a pool of revenue generated by the other 75 percent of the funds collected at monthly events. These benefactors must use funds within Shelby Township for environmental beautification or environmental quality projects with community benefactors.

“Community benefactors could be committees or clubs recognized by the Charter Township of Shelby, and entities that contribute solely to the welfare of Shelby Township,” Filar said. “And I would encourage any of the organizations that would like to take part as participating co-sponsor organizations to contact the DPW.”

Based on collection totals from 2013 and 2014, co-sponsor charities have earned roughly $326 per month for a grand total of $6,845.50 while collecting 627,285 pounds of electronics for safe disposal, and $19,013.82 has been collected for the community benefactor fund.

The free electronics recycling events take place at the Municipal Grounds, 52700 Van Dyke the last Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., except in December.  This program is open to all communities.  Computers and accessories, televisions, phones, microwaves and more are accepted.  For more information about the electronics recycling events or SWARC, call the DPW at (586) 726-7272 or visit http://www.shelbytwp.org/recycle .

Shelby Township hosts 2015 priorities ‘visioning session’ to set annual goals

Once again the Shelby Township Board of Trustees is turning to its managers for input in township governance as officials set the date for the annual Township priorities community visioning session.

Visioning kicked off with Township department heads meeting Oct. 29 to set what they felt were the most pressing needs for the Township to address. That meeting was followed by a Nov. 6 Board of Trustees work session to add the Board’s views to the process.

The procedure culminates as individual taxpayers are invited to join and finalize the priorities 7 p.m. Nov. 13 in the Lower Level Conference Room of Township Hall at 52700 Van Dyke Ave. as well as online forms at http://www.shelbytwp.org.

“We sent invitations to all members of the Township’s boards and committees and are hoping to see them at the Nov. 13 meeting, but we’re also hoping to see some new people that have never shown up before” Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis said. “This is an amazing opportunity for our residents to come out and tell local government exactly how they want their tax dollars spent.”

Stathakis said that, while he enjoys seeing residents in person at the annual public vision exercise, the increased access offered by an online survey is invaluable.

“It’s just as true here as it is everywhere else in government, if you don’t reach out and get as many people involved in the process as possible, slogans like ‘increased transparency’ and ‘listening to the people’ are just campaign speak,” Stathakis said.

The township’s Planning Department developed the online survey to allow more access to the visioning sessions and increase the scope and diversity of opinions represented in the visioning exercise. Online feedback will be added to the information collected at the Nov. 13 meeting.

“The online survey opens the exercise up to more taxpayers and does not create more work for Township employees,” said Trustee Paul Viar. “It ensures our taxpayers have their voices heard on how we spend their money without adversely impacting day-to-day services.”

The residents’ input from the Nov. 13 meeting and the online poll accounts for one-third of what will ultimately be the 2015 priorities. It will be incorporated with the priorities gleaned from township department heads and those priorities of the Board of Trustees to form the final Top 10 Township Priorities for 2015.