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Sadly, the City budget passed by the Council on May 31, 2011 continues the decade long cuts to police and fire staffing levels. Please watch this video and read this article, then decide for yourself whether the City is placing high enough priority on the safety of our residents. If you belong to Facebook, please become a Friend of the Ann Arbor Firefighters. Change the batteries in your smoke detector and lock your doors.

We posted a copy of Karen Sidney's Budget Newsletter.
Karen is an attorney and CPA. She has experience in forensic accounting, which is the art of finding out where the money is going when people can't or won't tell you.

The administration has begun the budget process for the fiscal year 2012, which begins July 2011 and runs through June 2012. This year's budget process seems to rely on diverting attention from where the budget has grown over the last five or six years and instead asks us to prioritize the services we want. So we will face choices over which services we are willing to see cut rather than discussing where the budget has grown fat.

Some food for thought
Between FY06 and FY10, general fund expenses for "general government" increased 17%.
General government includes departments like the city attorney, city administrator, finance, HR, clerk, and council
Between FY06 and FY10 general fund expenses for police and fire increased 5%
Between FY06 and FY10 general fund expenses for parks decreased 13%
We spend twice as much for our legal department as the county spends on its legal department
In FY06, information technology (IT) expenses were moved from the general fund to a separate "internal service" fund.  Before the move, it cost about $3 million per year to provide IT for the whole city (including about $1 million per year for equipment).  After the move to a separate fund, costs doubled.
On April 13, ann arbor dot com reported that city hall wants to use $150,000 in unspent FY11 funds for a state street corridor study to hire a consultant.  If council said no, the $150,000 could be used for other priorities.

What the administration should be doing is preparing year by year comparisons of the costs for each city department. Yes, fire and police services have increased in cost. But, to a even greater extent, fleet services, IT and the legal department have grown in cost. At the first budget workshop a list of cost areas was circulated to provide a basis for discussion. That list of cost areas did not mention the areas supported by the Municipal Service Charge that is passed through to most other budgets. No mention of IT services, even though that area has approximately doubled in just a few years.

Stay tuned. We expect that the administration will try to make the budget process into a choice between safety services and parks, without mention of the real growth areas in the budget.

In the meantime, feel free to look at the City's budget page:

The Local in Ann Arbor Blog has a posting titled Ann Arbor’s Budget: The Case for a City Income Tax

Work Sessions
The Council has held two budget work sessions. The first was on Saturday December 4, 2010 and the second was on Saturday January 8, 2011. We will post links to the Chronicle reports of the sessions when they post them.