'It's mainly status quo'

Commissioners discuss $52.7 million budget, priorities for 2024


The sun sets on City Hall in this 2019 file photo from downtown Mount Pleasant.

Mount Pleasant homeowners likely won't see an increase in their millage rate in 2024, under numbers introduced to the city commission Monday night. But that doesn't mean their tax bill won't grow. 

The city anticipates spending close to $52.7 million in 2024, including nearly $24.2 million in self-sustaining enterprise funds like sewer and water services, and $20.4 million in general operation funds, such as salaries. 

The general operating fund is expected to bring in just over $20 million, Finance Director Chris Saladine, and 44% of that comes straight from the city's property owners.

"Property taxes are the lion's share of our revenue," Saladine said, noting that is "pretty much the same for any municipality."

The city is assuming the millage rate will remain at 16.25 mills, he said, but it's also anticipating a 3% increase in taxable values. 

A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 taxable value. For a $100,000 home, that equates to $1,625 per year, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury Property Tax Estimator. A 3% increase in taxable value would mean an additional $48.75 per year. 

"Overall, it's mainly status quo, nothing overly surprising," Saladine said. 

However, he did say there were a few challenges to building the 2024 budget. 

"Inflation has really taken a wack on us and probably everyone in this room over the past couple of years," Saladine said. "With that, both our PEAK and recreation programs have funding challenges that are coming up, and this budget does have some proposed fee increases, but it's really not enough to cover the budget shortfall." 

The city is limited, he said, in how much it can increase fees for both programs without risking people are priced out of their able to participate. 

Additionally, he pointed to:

  • Act 51, a road and gas tax that, after the 2020 census showed a decrease in Mount Pleasant residents, meant state funding for sidewalk improvements was cut by 15%; and
  • Outstanding Michigan Tax Tribunal complaints from area landlords, who have raised concerns that vacancies resulting from reduced enrollment at Central Michigan University mean their property values have dropped. 

PEAK and recreation

Commissioners discussed the options for continuing to fund the PEAK (Partners Empowering All Kids) program. 

Originally, funding for this program came from a 2001 grant to begin the program, and it has also been supported by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, Parks and Recreation Director Philip Biscorner said. 

“PEAK keeps schools open until 6 p.m. on school days, and turns schools into community centers for kids for six weeks in the summer,” according to its website. 

“Is (PEAK) a priority…why don't we figure out a way to include this in our budget?” Commissioner Bryan Chapman asked.

This is also a program that employs a lot of CMU students: Biscorner said they draw from the university's education program for employees.

While the commissioners supported the PEAK program, which serves close to 300 kids every summer, they didn’t pinpoint where the increased funding for the program would come from. 

“The commission is in agreement that this is an important program and we would like to continue funding it, but we have to look at other sources of funding,” Mayor Amy Perschbacher said. “Raising the (program) fees may be one of those sources.”

Saladine added that there are a few parts of the budget that are still up in the air: 

  • The results of a study of the fire department to gauge demand for funding; and
  • The results of a merger in the parks and recreation department.

Next in the budget process, on Oct. 23, there will be an opportunity for commissioners to ask more questions, and in November, there will be an opportunity for a public hearing. 

The deadline for adopting the budget, Saladine said, is the last meeting of the year, which is in December.  

Tribal funding priorities

The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe gives 2% of their profits from specific casino games to the city of Mount Pleasant budget every year.

At their last meeting, Sept. 11, the city commissioners were presented with options for projects to prioritize with the funding from the tribe.

In Monday's meeting the commissioners ranked what is important to the budget:

  • Police body cameras;
  • Aerial fire apparatus; and
  • Traffic signal at Pickford and Bradley

“Our car cameras, which have served us well, are dying,” said Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Paul Lauria. “At the minimum they have to be replaced next year. it has to happen.”