City Commission approves 2020 budget and city manager salary increase


From left to right, Mayor Will Joseph and commissioners Lori Gillis, Kathy Ling and Tony Kulick at the Dec. 9 City Commission meeting in City Hall.

Mount Pleasant City Commission wrapped up 2019 by approving the 2020 Operating Budget and increasing the city manager’s base salary.

The Dec. 9 commission meeting will be the last of 2019. Commissioners canceled the meeting scheduled for Dec. 16. Many city officials also said their goodbyes during the meeting, having announced their retirements from the city beforehand.

2020 Operating Budget

The city had been amending the 2020 Operating budget for a couple of months before the commissioners voted on it. City Manager Nancy Ridley said the budget includes some of the changes the commission generally agreed upon, including updated goal priorities, a new full-time position in the parks department and moving funds from downtown marketing to the assignment fund balance.

The budget passed in a 5-2 vote, with commissioners Lori Gillis and Petro Tolas giving the dissenting votes. Gillis said she has several problems with the budget, but the main one she spoke about had to do with the Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA).

She said the LDFA capture, taxes from local organizations like the Chippewa River District Library, and the Isabella Commission on Aging. The money collected from their taxes should go back to the organizations and not the LDFA, Gillis said.

Instead, Gillis said the budget would put some of the money into the LDFA’s Smart Zone, which she said was initially supposed to be an area for high-tech businesses. But she said there hasn’t been any kind of this development into it for a while.

Commissioner Tony Kulick said that if the city doesn’t continue to invest in the LDFA, nothing will get done in the Smart Zone. He said the economy has been terrible for about the past 10 years, so it’s not surprising that there hasn’t been any new development.

City Manager Report and Salary

The city commission also talked about the 2019 city manager evaluation of Ridley, along with a wage adjustment. Mayor Will Joseph said Ridley helped the city commission make progress with issues such as sidewalk snow removal and marijuana, both recreational and medical. He said the commission sees her as playing a vital role in the city.

However, when it came time for voting for the wage increase, there was some heated discussion between the commissioners regarding it. Kulick introduced a motion to increase Ridley’s base salary by 2%, because he said a bonus would be a disservice to the manager. Joseph said he agreed with Kulick, seconding the motion.

However, Gillis said this caught her by surprise because a couple days before, she and Joseph spoke about the wage increase. She said that they had decided on a bonus, not an increase to Ridley’s base salary.

Kulick said he and Will spoke late in the afternoon and Joseph said he did reach out to other commissioners. Gillis said that she would not support the wage increase because she wasn’t notified about the change.

“This is somewhat what goes behind the scenes on city commission where you kind of have you legs taken out from under you and you’re the last one to know,” Gillis said.

Commissioner Kristin LaLonde also said she assumed that Ridley would be getting a bonus, not a base salary increase. However, she supported the salary increase because it would meet the market demand of the position. She also didn’t see the issue with the last-minute change.

“This happens at almost every meeting where somebody likes to spring something on the agenda at the last minute and we’re all supposed to decide on it,” she said. “When that happens, I take that new information and form an opinion based on that new information.”

Ridley’s base salary was increase was approved by the commission in a 5-2 vote, with Gillis and Tolas being the dissenting votes.

Departure of Ling and Kulick

This meeting also marked the last for commissioners Ling and Kulick, who announced earlier this year that they wouldn’t be seeking re-election in this year’s commissioner election. Both of them gave speeches about their times serving on the commission.

Ling first joined the commission in 2008. She was also vice mayor and mayor at during her time on the commission as well. Ling said it was an honor to represent the city of Mount Pleasant.

Kulick joined the commission in 2014. Kulick said he thanked the citizens of Mount Pleasant and that he hopes he didn’t let them down.

They will be replaced by Mary Alsager and George Ronan at the start of 2020.

Other Business:

· This was also the last meeting of John Zang, Mount Pleasant Director of Public works. Ridley said Zang has been with the city for six years and is retiring from his position. Zang said there will be an interim director until the city finds a new director.

· The city commission meeting scheduled for Dec. 16 was canceled in a unanimous vote, as was the scheduling of the first meeting in 2020 on Jan. 13.

· The city also approved a change suggested by the state regarding an agreement made with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe regarding the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School property. Ridley said an agreement was reached a year ago for the city to do archeological work on the land and that discussion must happen if either entity wants to develop the land they own. But a state archeologist recommended an amendment to consult the state during the archeological process. The change was passed in a 6-1 vote, with Tolas giving the dissenting vote.

· The commission agreed in a unanimous vote to process wastewater coming from Nottawa Township. Ridley said Mount Pleasant has extra capacity to treat the township’s water at the city’s wastewater plant, it would benefit the Chippewa River and that it would be at no cost to the city.