Source: Sherman Publications

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Mayor waves off his pay
But it's not enough to close city deficits

by Mary Keck

April 25, 2012

With a projected deficit of $60,000, Clarkston Mayor Joe Luginski is cutting his own pay, and encouraging other City Council members to do the same.

Even if they do, however, it wouldn't be enough.

Finance Committee member Richard Bisio said Clarkston's projected deficit for the city's 2013 budget is $60,000. The pay cut to the mayor and fellow council members isn't enough to cover the city's expenses.

According to the city's charter, the mayor is paid $3,850 per year, and each council member earns $25 for each meeting they attend.

Luginski said he is waiving his right to compensation starting in July, and he won't accept payment if he is reelected.

In addition to waiving compensation, the council may take other measures including eliminating salaries for members of the planning commission and reducing budget allocation to the historic district commission, Luginski said in a memo to the council, April 18.

These changes "will be helpful, but they will not total $60,000," Bisio said.

Other options the council may consider include adding a one percent administration fee to property tax bills, replacing the lights on Main Street with LED lights, and cutting back on capital improvements such as replacing the Depot Park bridge and additions to the city hall.

An important piece of the puzzle is the library's millage, which won't be put in place until the library is reestablished and citizens have voted on it.

The city doesn't currently have its own library, and the council is contracted to pay $12,000 every six months to Independence Township for library services.

If the district library plan is approved and the city no longer has to make those payments, those funds could help pay down the deficit, Bisio said.

This isn't the first time city council had trouble balancing the budget.

It 2010, Clarkston disbanded its police department and contracted with Oakland County Sheriff's Office to reduce expensese. However, property values have continued to decrease, so the city needs more long-term solutions.

One solution Bisio said the finance committee is kicking around is dipping into the approximately $219,000 fund balance, a budget surplus the city has accumulated over the years.

This is "not a long range plan," Bisio stated. "We need to anticipate increasing our revenue in some way" to tackle the ongoing problem of decreased revenue and increasing costs.

While Bisio is "fairly confident we'll cover the deficit this coming year" without needing to ask citizens for a tax increase, raising costs to taxpayers is a solution the council may consideri in the years to come if property values continue to drop, he said.