Significant increase in Mount Pleasant expenditures budget blamed on union contract negotiations
The Mount Pleasant city manager’s office reported an almost $40,000 budget increase in 2013 listed under “other expenditures” – almost $24,000 more than the previous three years’ expenditures in the category combined.
The legislative division’s budget activity is located on page 44 of the City of Mount Pleasant’s 2013 budget. The “other expenditures” line item is one of five items listed under city manager activity in the budget.
From 2010-12, the money spent in this category was less than $10,000 a year.
Assistant City Manager and Finance Director Nancy Ridley said the large increase was due to ongoing union contract negotiations. Mount Pleasant’s unionized employees include firefighters, police officers, workers in the city’s Division of Public Works, and workers in the Technical, Professional and Office Workers Association of Michigan, which includes the city’s clerical staff.
“As the contracts are settled and we know exactly what we’re going to pay, we then amend the budget to take the money out of (“other expenditures”) and move it into the individual departmental accounts, so by the end of the year, we’ve only spent about $7,000 or $9,000,” she said.
Allocating the money to the departments currently under contract negotiations would defeat the bargaining portion between the city and the unions, Ridley said.
“If the money were allocated to those departments, they could claim ‘We are already getting a raise,’” Ridley said.
Money set aside for union contracts is not left in the general fund until negotiations are finished, she said.
“We don’t leave it in the general fund, because it is money that is anticipated to be spent,” Ridley said.
Putting the money for union contracts in the city manager’s portion of the budget is a common practice in Mount Pleasant, Ridley said.
The Division of Public Works and TPOAM are currently negotiating contracts with the city.
Susanne Gandy, the city’s director of human resources, said the city has had two successful meetings with TPOAM.
“I think that we started with good expectations on both sides,” she said. “We should have this settled before their contract expires on April 1.”
The Mount Pleasant firefighters union contract has yet to be negotiated.
“We haven’t had a meeting yet,” Sgt. Michael Dunham of the Mount Pleasant Fire Department said. “But it will be coming up shortly; we probably will be in negotiations this summer.”
Other spending increases
Both the City Commission and the city’s manager’s office have reported other spending increases in this year’s budget.
In 2012, the City Commission’s budget for supplies was $2,040, but that amount increased to $10,460 in 2013.
In the 2013 Operating Budget Response to City Commission Strategies, located on page eight of the budget document, $6,500 is allocated for the possible purchase of tablet computers for the commissioners, which accounts for most of the increase in the City Commission’s supply budget.
Ridley said the city commissioners receive Lenovo laptops when they are elected, which are to be used for city business and during commission meetings. She said these laptops are approximately four or five years old.
“We’re suggesting to them that it might be a good idea to think about replacing some of them before they start becoming problematic,” Ridley said. “With the way technology’s changed, we’re not sure that replacing them with just another laptop is the right way to go, so we might look at purchasing laptops or iPads for them.”
Ridley said commissioners are unsure of whether purchasing new computers for them is a wise use of money, so the allocated $6,500 might or might not be spent.
The city manager’s office has also reported increases in spending on compensation in the 2013 budget, she said.
The current allocation for compensation in the city manager’s office is $298,620, which increased from $271,230 last year. Ridley said this increase was due to the community information director position changing from part-time to full-time.
“In 2012, the community information director position was vacant, and no one was paid for that position for January, February, and March,” she said. “Last year, two people worked for 12 months, and one worked for nine months. Now, three people are working for all 12 months.”
Ridley said the community information director will help the city use social media more effectively.
“We can talk to people about how good our community is and why people should live here,” she said.
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