Government and Travel & Tourism

Metro Council offers operating budgets

August 31, 2012
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Grand Valley Metro Council Executive Director John Weiss gave the board a preview recently of the agency’s general operating budget that it is expected to adopt this week.

Weiss, who called the spending plan a “downsized” budget and said about 50 people had input into its creation, didn’t just offer the sneak peek to let the board know what was coming. He also wanted to underline the transparency of the council’s budgeting process.

Weiss also posted the budget on the council’s website for public inspection.

“We won’t take action on this until Sept. 6,” he told the board. “The budget is less than it was in the past because we’re done with the brownfield grant and the (U.S.) 131 study.”

When the council’s fiscal year starts Oct. 1, GVMC estimates it will have $1.835 million in revenue and $1.831 million in expenditures for an operational surplus of $4,309. Revenue was $2 million for this year; expenses were $1.95 million. “Our budget is downsized,” said Weiss.

The operating budget for the council’s Regional Geographic Information System will be $845,554 Oct. 1, while the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds will have $206,980 with which to work.

GVMC is also the region’s transportation planner, working closely with the Michigan Department of Transportation on short- and long-range transportation and transit programs and projects. So it wasn’t a surprise that MDOT Regional Engineer Roger Stafford paid the council a visit at the board’s last meeting.

“Our partnership with you is very important for the future of transportation,” he said, pointing out the economic and quality-of-life benefits that a good road system offers the region. But the future that Stafford was there to talk about centered on funding for roads, highways and bridges and not the partnership his agency has with the Metro Council.

Stafford said an additional $1.4 billion in road revenue was necessary each year just to maintain the current system, echoing a figure Gov. Rick Snyder mentioned last October when he called for increases in registration fees and fuel taxes. But since the governor laid out his number and plan, Stafford said the Legislature hasn’t acted on making either a reality.

“That number has now increased to $1.5 billion,” said Stafford, who also noted that the Metro Council reported that 35 percent of the region’s roads this year are in poor condition. “It’s basically a pay-now-or-pay-later scenario. Don’t pay too much attention to the numbers, but note that every year that goes by with no solution means the cost goes up.”

MDOT Director of Government Affairs Kelly Bartlett let council members know where more road funding is parked in Lansing. He said a lawmaker he didn’t identify said MDOT had to eliminate $200 million from its budget before the Legislature would act on funding bills that are sitting in committees.

Stafford said the agency had cut $55 million from operations by closing eight regional offices, reducing its permanent staff by 15 percent and wiping out 60 managerial and supervisory positions. He said the downsizing was a chore, and MDOT put the monetary savings into funding programs. “We’ve embraced the governor’s performance-based measures,” he added.

Bartlett, though, noted three of the four major sponsors of the funding bills that haven’t reached the floor are leaving Lansing at the end of this year so they won’t be around to push their bills forward in the next session.

“The real question is, how do we get from where we are to where we want to be? The other question we have to address is, how do we get there?”

One solution MDOT might try to get from Point A to Point B on the funding issue is to present a statewide ballot measure to the public. But Bartlett pointed out that might be a dangerous road to take.

“Is the solution that we ask the voters to adopt something the Legislature isn’t willing to do?” he asked. “Between now and the election, we’ve got to assemble the facts and show legislators that we deserve the funding.”
Grand Valley Metro Council Executive Director John Weiss gave the board a preview recently of the agency’s general operating budget that it is expected to adopt this week.

Weiss, who called the spending plan a “downsized” budget and said about 50 people had input into its creation, didn’t just offer the sneak peek to let the board know what was coming. He also wanted to underline the transparency of the council’s budgeting process.

Weiss also posted the budget on the council’s website for public inspection.

“We won’t take action on this until Sept. 6,” he told the board. “The budget is less than it was in the past because we’re done with the brownfield grant and the (U.S.) 131 study.”

When the council’s fiscal year starts Oct. 1, GVMC estimates it will have $1.835 million in revenue and $1.831 million in expenditures for an operational surplus of $4,309. Revenue was $2 million for this year; expenses were $1.95 million. “Our budget is downsized,” said Weiss.

The operating budget for the council’s Regional Geographic Information System will be $845,554 Oct. 1, while the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds will have $206,980 with which to work.

GVMC is also the region’s transportation planner, working closely with the Michigan Department of Transportation on short- and long-range transportation and transit programs and projects. So it wasn’t a surprise that MDOT Regional Engineer Roger Stafford paid the council a visit at the board’s last meeting.

“Our partnership with you is very important for the future of transportation,” he said, pointing out the economic and quality-of-life benefits that a good road system offers the region. But the future that Stafford was there to talk about centered on funding for roads, highways and bridges and not the partnership his agency has with the Metro Council.

Stafford said an additional $1.4 billion in road revenue was necessary each year just to maintain the current system, echoing a figure Gov. Rick Snyder mentioned last October when he called for increases in registration fees and fuel taxes. But since the governor laid out his number and plan, Stafford said the Legislature hasn’t acted on making either a reality.

“That number has now increased to $1.5 billion,” said Stafford, who also noted that the Metro Council reported that 35 percent of the region’s roads this year are in poor condition. “It’s basically a pay-now-or-pay-later scenario. Don’t pay too much attention to the numbers, but note that every year that goes by with no solution means the cost goes up.”

MDOT Director of Government Affairs Kelly Bartlett let council members know where more road funding is parked in Lansing. He said a lawmaker he didn’t identify said MDOT had to eliminate $200 million from its budget before the Legislature would act on funding bills that are sitting in committees.

Stafford said the agency had cut $55 million from operations by closing eight regional offices, reducing its permanent staff by 15 percent and wiping out 60 managerial and supervisory positions. He said the downsizing was a chore, and MDOT put the monetary savings into funding programs. “We’ve embraced the governor’s performance-based measures,” he added.

Bartlett, though, noted three of the four major sponsors of the funding bills that haven’t reached the floor are leaving Lansing at the end of this year so they won’t be around to push their bills forward in the next session.

“The real question is, how do we get from where we are to where we want to be? The other question we have to address is, how do we get there?”

One solution MDOT might try to get from Point A to Point B on the funding issue is to present a statewide ballot measure to the public. But Bartlett pointed out that might be a dangerous road to take.

“Is the solution that we ask the voters to adopt something the Legislature isn’t willing to do?” he asked. “Between now and the election, we’ve got to assemble the facts and show legislators that we deserve the funding.”

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