State of the Township 2013
Presented by ClintonTownship Supervisor Robert Cannon THE GOOD NEWS TODAY AND THE CHALLENGES AHEAD IN CLINTONTOWNSHIP
Thank you Grace Shore and the Macomb Chamber of Commerce for providing this opportunity to address our businesscommunity, county, state and national elected officials, and the nearly 100,000 residents of ClintonTownship.
And, thank you Larry Neal and the Clinton –Macomb Library Board for allowing us to utilize our very beautiful and very amazing Library. Let me introduce and thank my fellow board members who serve our residents. It is a great honor and privilege for us to serve this great community. (INTRODUCE BOARD MEMBERS WHO ARE PRESENT.)
Let me start by saying I have good news and I won’t say bad news because I’m a “the glass is half full” kind of person. But I will say there are many challenges.
The good news is ClintonTownship is a wonderful place to live, raise a family, and work. The services we provide to our residents and businesses are more critical now than ever before. However, the challenge before us is that available resources continue to shrink and will continue to do so until we arrive at a new economic reality that is far different than what we knew 5 years ago.
Let’s start out this year’s State of the Township with what I believe are some of your community’s star operations.
We are extremely proud to see how every day Matt Makowski and Debbie McClellan roll out the red carpet for our seniors at our award winning SeniorAdultLifeCenter. The demographics in ClintonTownship and MacombCounty are changing dramatically as baby-boomers reach retirement age and we adjust our services to meet their needs.
Our SeniorAdultLifeCenter continues to partner with other organizations such as Elder Law of Michigan, MISD Homeless Education and ALL senior centers in MacombCounty. This has helped us to reorganize our staff, bringing in a number of new part time employees as full-time staff retires.
We have over 125 volunteers that assist at the center—and there is no doubt that the success of the center would fade without their valued service. It is a medical fact that those who volunteer add years and quality to their lives. We appreciate each and every one at our center.
Additionally, our senior center champions these major projects to “give back” to our community in 2012.
PARKS AND RECREATION
As with most of our departments, re-organization was front and center for our award winning Parks and Recreation program. Linda Walter and Frank Pizzo have worked hard to partner with Clintondale Schools, ChippewaValleySchools, our Library and 17 communities in Macomb and St. Clair Counties. This allowed us to bring programs to our residents that we could not have done on our own such as the Adaptive Basketball and Tennis programs.
Service has always been a key part of the mission for Linda and Frank. They have over 300 trained volunteers and have once again expanded their Teen Volunteer program. They participate in the Relay for Life and assist the local Lions Club with their fundraising efforts. One does not attend a major Township event without seeing the support provided by their staff.
We are just completing the update of the Five-Year Recreation Master Plan which will be presented to the Board of Trustees and public in February. It will open new opportunities for grant funding as our parks and rec program continues to do more with less in 2013.
I am glad to report that our Building Department Superintendent Mike Gentry and his staff have been very busy-which is good news. Some of our dormant residential subdivisions and condo projects have started to rebound with nearly 100 units now under construction. Five apartment buildings are under construction, too.
Additionally, the staff inspected over 2,100 foreclosed properties. We had over 1,100 ordinance inspections with 90% compliance and over 100 court cases pending.
Some of the highlights of other construction include additions to Macomb Community College, Baker College, Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, 3 new Tim Horton’s locations, and a new Mausoleum at Resurrection Cemetery. And, of course, Partridge Creek Mall continues to set the standard in a competitive retail market with new store expansions and sought-after unique shopping experiences.
It used to be that we had an Engineering Department, Water and Sewer Department and Department of Public Works. When the department heads in the DPW and Water and Sewer retired, we turned to Mary Bednar, our engineer, and asked her to oversee and merge her responsibilities with DPW and Water and Sewer as our Public Services operation.
There was a lot of anxiety over this consolidation, but today I thank Mary Bednar and her staff, especially Joe Tresick, Brian Girard, Sally McGowan and Lisa Supanich, for making this change a huge success. Staff members have been cross-trained, huge savings have occurred, and what was once three separate departments, has become a new streamlined Department of Public Services.
The Water and Sewer division now completes projects that previously were contracted to private companies, with substantial cost savings. What had become a large problem due to aging outside meter reader boxes has been corrected and less than ½ of one percent of all readings are now estimates. The water and sewer division, along with our consulting engineering firm Giffles-Webster, has secured State of Michigan funds which will save our residents at least $1/2 Million in projects this year.
Other Good news - We also purchased an existing industrial building that will become our new DPS building to replace the building at Garfield and ClintonRiver, which has met our needs for many years but is now beyond repair. A special thanks goes to Trustee Ken Pearl for his efforts on this project. We will move into the building near the Morley Candy Factory on Hall Road this March. The Public Works division continues to maintain aging Township facilities and our Parks to the highest standards as well as maintaining dozens of County Tax Forfeiture properties—all with reduced staff.
POINTS OF PRIDE – MORE GOOD NEWS
In addition to all the very positive things I have already mentioned thus far, I would like to touch on just a few of the other points of pride in Clinton Township;
1. County Executive, Mark Hackel, noted at his State of the County address that over 40,000 students attend college full-time in MacombCounty. We are proud that the majority attend school in ClintonTownship at Macomb Community College Center Campus on Garfield, with 8 Universities participating in the one-of-a-kind UniversityCenter, and not to forget a Big 10 Medical School also at the Garfield Campus. Five thousand students attend BakerCollege classes at two campuses in our community. Both MacombCommunity College and BakerCollege continue to invest millions of dollars in their campuses to expand educational opportunities in ClintonTownship.
2. Henry Ford Macomb hospital, under the direction of CEO Barb Rossman, and McLaren Regional Medical Center—Macomb, under the direction of CEO Mark O’Halla, continue to make major investments in their hospitals to further expand their world class facilities for our health care needs.
3. Between the colleges and hospitals you can see how many people we service everyday in the township—and that is not counting the nearly 100,000 who call C.T. home. Of the 1,242 Townships in Michigan, we are the most populated and, when including cities, we are the 10th most populated community in the State.
4. We successfully sold the tax foreclosed homes that we received from MacombCounty for non-payment of property taxes. These are properties that the prior owners gave up rather than pay the back taxes. By selling these properties, delinquent taxes are paid to the school districts, the county and the township, and we help stabilize neighborhoods. Treasurer Wahby holds ClintonTownship as a shining example of how this program should work.
5. Very few communities can boast of having 10 year cable franchise agreements with three providers for residents. Comcast, Wide Open West and AT&T U-verse all provide community cable channels for our schools and government, making ClintonTownship one of the most competitive cable markets in the State of Michigan. Thanks to the efforts of Linda Badamo, Joe Peruzzi and John Brooks, residents can see a variety of locally produced programs as well as the regular coverage of the township board meetings. This year we will apply for a renewal of our license to operate the low power AM radio station for weather and emergency alerts. The station is 1610AM. Equipment for the radio station was purchased with a grant from FEMA—thank you Paul Brouwer Sr. for that grant and many others you secure as our Emergency Manager.
6. We hold several blood drives each year. Mary Ann Hosey will head up her 24th annual drive on November 7th and Treasurer Bill Sowerby heads up the most successful two-day blood drive in the state of Michigan which this year will be held on March 12 and 13.
7. Major positive changes occurred in the Gratiot Downtown Development Authority district in 2012 with the addition of, and expansion of, many businesses including the Teppanyaki Grill and Buffet, the Bread Basket Deli and Catering 2 You in just the past three months alone. This historic thoroughfare is now the township’s fastest business development area based upon data from our planning department. We are fortunate to have such great volunteers on the DDA who work closely with Carlo Santia and Joe Silbernagel of our planning department. Our 11th annual Gratiot Cruise will again take place on the first Sunday in August.
8. The 7th annual Festival of the Senses will be held September 21st and 22nd. This event has become a premier Art event and it will again be headed up by Mary Ann Hosey with the help of the art committee and many volunteers. She also coordinates our very successful SisterCity program with Yasu, Japan now in its 20th year.
9. Our historic village on the civic center grounds, and our Arboretum and bike trail down the 18 Mile corridor, continue to improve and expand for our residents use. You can find more information about the arboretum in a pamphlet at your tables.
10. We continue to host our 9-11 Patriot Day Celebration. This year once again, it will be at Resurrection Cemetery War Memorial grounds. The purpose is to remember Sept. 11th, 2001, and to also THANK those who have served, or are serving today, to protect us—both here in the Township and abroad. We continue to partner with Bob Schrage and the cemetery for veterans and patriotic day remembrances throughout the year. This past December, Wreath’s across America was added to the list of events in which, after a very moving ceremony, hundreds of people took wreaths and placed them on the graves of veterans who are buried at the Cemetery.
11. Our employees donated over $11,000 for 40 local charities during the past year due to their contributions on casual Fridays. I would like to thank Mary Ann Hosey, Debbie Staller, and Jessica Holden for coordinating this activity. I like to brag about our employees, and here is a story I know you will enjoy. Just before the holidays I received a call from the Principal of one of our elementary schools in the township. I know the principal very well, and she never calls me except to make sure I am going to our high school class re-union. This time it was different. She had a second grade student who had arrived at school with his body covered with bed-bug bites. He was living in a hotel with his mother and an elderly gentleman that his mother was taking care of and the hotel was infested. Not only was this boy bitten up, but his clothing also had bed bugs in them. No help could be offered by the health department as bed bugs do not carry diseases. I told her we would see what we could do. My first call was to Mike Gentry and he sent an inspector out immediately. The motel was cited by the Township and ordered to show proof of extermination—and they did! Also, these 4 employees took it upon themselves to buy new clothing and secure some Christmas gifts from the Clinton Township Goodfellows for this child. I have already mentioned the 3 ladies in the picture, however, I would like to highlight Bob Turner. Bob works for DPW. Years ago when the township had more staff and money, we used to help the Goodfellows by delivering the gifts. When we could no longer do that, Bob Turner became a Goodfellow volunteer to help other volunteers get the gifts to the over 1,000 children they help each year. You are now looking at Goodfellows President Bob Turner, who volunteered to get these gifts and clothes to this second grader who had been so badly bitten by the bugs. Help me thank Bob Turner and the other volunteers who make this a great community.
12. I could tell you many such stories, but I will only do one more. On the night of the presidential election, November 6th, 2012, Bernie Battani, and Mike Scott, who both work in the department of Public Services, worked until 2 in the morning, after everyone else was gone, to certify an unaccounted for precinct. A knock on the door from the Sheriff’s department was a request for ClintonTownship’s election results, as we were the only ones in the County not to have turned them in. Even though it was not their responsibility, and they had both been on their feet for over 15 hours that day, they figured out how to get those results and turn them over. This demonstrated again the type of employees we have serving the public. Thank you Mike and Bernie for your commitment to the public in ClintonTownship.
13. And, thank you Trustee Dean Reynolds for spearheading the fundraising for the summer fireworks event we again plan for July 10th. Also a thank you to the many businesses in the community who donate to make this project such a big success.
14. And finally, No surprise here—Partridge Creek Mall was voted the Best Mall in Metro Detroit.
The Clinton Township Assessing Department under the direction of chief assessor Jim Elrod is responsible for an assessment roll of over 36,000 parcels of real and personal property. He is doing it with exactly 50% of the staff we had a few years ago. The assessment roll provides the funding that allows the Township to operate and provides the foundation that funds our schools, library, county government, police and fire and public services among others.
The 2012 State Equalized Value is currently about $2.7 billion which is a decrease of 5.4% from 2011. Currently, as a whole, our residential values have stabilized township wide, however, individual residential areas within the township have shown increases, while others may still be experiencing decreases. On the positive side of the equation, over 3500 transfer documents were posted in 2012 for over an 18% increase from 2011. Assessing also tracked over 300 foreclosure deeds which is a decrease of 40% from the prior year. There were more than 750 good market sales in 2012, an increase of 50% from 2011. So the housing market appears to be making a turnaround.
In the commercial class, we are seeing decreases of approximately 10% in assessed values and 11% in industrial assessed values. Still alarming decreases in these two very important tax bases. This presents a challenge as tax revenues continue to decrease.
The assessing department also responds to the Michigan Tax Tribunal where they answer, track, review, prepare appraisal studies and defend appraisals, meet with taxpayers and attorneys and attend many hearings to determine proper property valuations. There are more than 350 of these pending at this time.
Over the last 5 years, property values in ClintonTownship have declined cumulatively 30% due to the down turned economy. This has created one of our biggest challenges. It means a loss of approximately $10.5 million dollars in police department revenues, over $8 million dollars in the fire dept. and $1.3 million dollars in the general fund. All total, over $20 million from property values have been lost over the past 5 years. As I noted, an extremely difficult challenge.
We hear reports that we have bottomed out and that the economy is starting to improve. I have given you a snapshot of ClintonTownship and how we have lost over 30% of our value over the past 5 years, and am hopeful our home values may have bottomed out.
Does this mean that since it took us 5 years to sink to this level that it will take us 5 years to get back to the property tax funding that we had in 2007? The answer is a resounding NO.
Clinton Townhip is an established community being approximately 95% developed. Growth in taxable value is primarily limited to the rate of inflation. The average rate of inflation has been 2.5%. So whereas we lost on average 6% of taxable value annually for the past 5 years, if the values start increasing at a rate of at least 2.5% a year, it will take until 2023 to get back to the values the Township relied upon in tax revenue in 2007. And this does not include the township’s other main funding source which is state revenue sharing. Needless to say, limited resources ARE in the foreseeable future if we do nothing.
Our other main source of funding, state revenue sharing, has experienced continuous declines since 2002. The State has used local communities to balance the State budget. The amount received from the State during the 2012 fiscal year was $6.2 million, or 31% less that what the Township received in the 2002 fiscal year. This is $27.4 MILLION less from the state. Let me repeat. This is $27.4 MILLION unaccounted for dollars promised by the State of Michigan.
Despite these shortfalls, our auditing firm Plante and Moran has once again given our financial statements the HIGHEST OPINION that it can offer. GREAT NEWS. They confirm what I and our staff already know. We have had to re-set the level of services that the township provides. In reaction to this revenue decline, the Township reduced staffing levels through attrition and layoffs of now more than 112 positions, which is a 27% decrease in staffing levels. I appreciate the sound financial advise we receive, especially from Donna Lauretti, Mary Hein and Bill Smith. We also modified our employee health care benefits to current employees and retiree heath care and retiree benefit provisions for new employees.
This was not an easy task, and I want to commend our employees for taking on additional tasks and letting go of some things that we cannot afford any longer. It has been stressful, but they have stepped up and have risen to this challenge.
Our fire department continues to be recognized for the outstanding job they do protecting our residents and businesses each and every day. Our funding for this critical department once again decreased from the prior year, resulting in a challenge met by a reduction in staffing levels through layoffs and attrition. At the end of the fiscal year in 2011, 12 firefighters were laid off and subsequently hired back through funding provided by the federal SAFER grant which pays for the 12 positions. We were awarded over a 2 year period $3.3 Million in Safer Grant Funds, but the grant expires this June. We have applied for a grant to continue employing these 12 firefighters.
Our fire prevention and training division continue to exceed expectations in many areas, including finding grants. Over 10,000 calls for service were answered last year, a 10% increase from the prior year. We did this while at the same time continuing to cut firefighter positions lost to attrition. Ultimately we had to close a fire company due to the loss of manpower.
There were many acts of heroism that took place in ClintonTownship last year, and I would like to describe just one that exemplifies the courage of our fire department.
A 9-1-1 fire call was placed on June 24th and the caller reported that a child was trapped. Engine 3 arrived first finding a heavy fire condition possessing 40% of the structure. Acting Lieutenant Paul Brouwer gave the order to position the Engine at a hydrant and then to get a hand line stretched. While the engineer and firefighter of Engine 3 worked to stretch the line, Brouwer evaluated the circumstance and questioned several residents. After confirming a child was trapped in the rear bedroom, Brouwer recognized that the fire was in the doorway providing the only path through the home to the bedrooms. He quickly located an alternate route and directed a resident to hold up the window and for two of C.T.’s police officers to boost him up to the window serving the bedroom.
Moving without hesitation or regard for his own personal safety, even before water started, He entered the burning structure and began searching the room. In ZERO visibility conditions he rapidly located the overcome child. He moved the child back to the window, where he handed him over to the two waiting police officers who rushed the child to the hospital. All of this took place in less than 3 minutes from when the 9-1-1 call was placed!
The child did recover from his injuries due to Engine 3’s actions along with the resident and our Clinton Police officers. And as far as Officer Brouwer’s actions, they exemplified great courage and he upheld the highest tradition of the fire service.
Please help me thank Paul Brouwer on behalf of a grateful community…
I know Paul and his family and I know that Paul would tell all of us that any of his fellow fire-fighters here in ClintonTownship would have done exactly as he did if they were in his boots.
Our revenue for funding the police department is generated the same as the fire fund through property taxes which decreased last year by 8.7% . This fund has seen a steady decrease for quite some time. To offset the revenue decline, we again have decreased expenses through staff attrition. Our staffing in this department is now lower than it was in 1991 when our population was less and we had fewer businesses. We anticipate substantial savings in the future due to the Township Board voting to have the CountySheriff’s department take over the duties of dispatch this spring.
In 2012 our police department responded to over 50,000 calls for help and arrested 2,137 people. They arrested 7 individuals in one short period in September just for home invasion crimes---all drug related. You may remember that on November 14th, officers Mark Sylvester and Tom Hill arrested a man who threatened to shoot the 7-11 clerk if she did not give him all the money in her cash register. They were dispatched to the scene and gathered the evidence needed to search for the suspect and make the arrest. By the way, this was this suspect’s third robbery of the same convenience store.
These officers are certainly fine representatives of Chief Fred Posavetz’s department. Help me thank officers Mark Sylvester and Tom Hill.
As you’ve heard there is much to be proud of and much good news happening through the township. But the challenges continue.
All local governments struggle to maintain basic services with much less tax revenue and huge reductions in state revenue sharing. The severity of this challenge cannot be understated; it is NOT possible for local governments to provide services like public safety in the manner we need while FUNDING streams continue to diminish. The state continues to reduce aid to local communities such as the personal property tax on business which again impacts our revenue.
We have seen our overall staff reduced by 112 positions in recent years and the majority are in the police and fire departments which pose significant challenges daily. We have received concessions from our employees, and as I mentioned we will begin saving money in both the police and fire funds by using the CountyDispatch system. We still have 7 firefighters on layoff and 12 firefighters whose salary and benefits are being paid for with a grant that expires this coming June. We have applied for another grant to keep these 12 firefighters employed, but are uncertain of its approval.
One year ago, I promised that I would bring to the board for its consideration, the number of property tax mills that it would take to keep our fire department and police department staffing levels at the January 1, 2012 level for the next 10 years. I brought that number to the board and it is 1.5 mills for the police and 2 mills for the fire department. Due in large part to our belt-tightening over the past year, I am pleased to report that those numbers have decreased to 1 mill for the police department and 1.25 mills for the fire department.
What I do know is that our staffing levels in both public safety departments continue to decrease. We have not been replacing anyone in these critical areas, and that, along with carefully controlled spending has resulted in balanced budgets in these departments.
BUT, we cannot continue this trend without affecting the quality of safety in this Township. That is why I will be bringing to the township board the following recommendation for consideration.
I will ask that a separate citizen committee for fire and for police be formed and charged with gathering data to help determine what they believe to be the appropriate level of manpower for our police and fire services along with the needed millage to provide the recommended manpower and supporting budget for the next 10 years. I will ask Donna Lauretti and Mary Hein from our finance department to each sit in on the committees and also the police chief and fire chief, or their designee. I will ask that a report be delivered to the board no later than May 1st of this year.
I will put out a call for concerned residents to sit on these committees, who can be community activists, but NOT political activists—for obvious reasons. I will also ask for help from my fellow board members to seek out residents who wish to serve.
To help guarantee the fairness of this process, I have asked a very impressive group of six community leaders to then look over the application letters from our citizens and make their recommendation as to who should be interviewed to sit on these two committees. They are pictured and named on the screen. A second group of community members will do the actual interviewing. They are long –time community activists Frank Marella, Mike Nickerson, Joe Wentrek and Stephanie Russell.
PLUS 2 WOMEN
All of these citizens have long-term ties to the township and bring a wealth of experience to this task they have volunteered to help us with.
My reason for this process is to provide a sense of confidence that the recommendations that come forward are not political and that community input was sought and desired before making any request of the public.
In ClintonTownship we have worked aggressively to stay ahead of the declining economic curve by reducing our spending in line with revenues. At the same time, I recognize that to properly serve the community, the needs of our residents have to be considered.
Should either, or both, citizen committee’s recommend that the public be given the opportunity to vote on an increase, an election could occur in August or November The average cost for an election is approximately $56,000 and we would have to bare this cost as no other election is scheduled at this time during 2013.
As I have mentioned, we have reduced spending considerably in both departments. I would not make a request like this if we had not reduced staff and received employee concessions first. The final event I was waiting for was the consolidation of our dispatch with the County, which again demonstrates this board’s resolve to reduce expenses, whenever feasible. However, I believe we’ve reached the point where further staff reductions begin to render both department’s less and less effective.
Our Township is facing the same daunting challenges that face all communities in MacombCounty and throughout the state of Michigan. There remains a funding problem facing communities in property values and reductions in state revenue sharing funds.
We will remain proactive in strategically planning for the future, while continuing to prepare a three-year forecast. Due to our cost-cutting and cost containment efforts, I know we are better positioned than most communities.
Our ultimate goal is to continue to establish a budget that continues to fund vital services that provide a high quality of life and a level of services our residents deserve and have come to expect.
As township board members we will all need political courage to meet the challenges that the township faces so that we can continue to be a community of progress that 100,000 people call home and hundreds of thousands of others come to visit, study, shop and work.
We have chartered a new course, and will continue to do so, as the future isn’t what it used to be in local government.