Parks, Infrastructure, Housing, Planning: First Look At 2022-23 City Budget
By Beth Milligan | May 3, 2022
Traverse City commissioners received their first look Monday at the city’s proposed budget for the upcoming 2022-23 fiscal year, a document that outlines numerous proposed park and infrastructure projects, water and clean energy investments, staff additions – including a proposed second assistant city manager – and planning initiatives, including developing a potential “city campus” concept in response to Grand Traverse County announcing plans to consolidate county operations into two campuses.
City staff distributed the proposed $20.9 million general fund budget to commissioners Monday, who did not discuss it in detail but will do so at an in-depth overview and Q&A study session next week. That will be followed by a public hearing on May 16, in which residents can weigh in on city spending priorities, with commissioners then voting to formally approve the budget on June 6.
In a budget summary, City Manager Marty Colburn noted the city is continuing to experience impacts from the pandemic, ranging from a recent uptick in staff illnesses to economic inflation to disruptions with contractors, materials, and supply lines. But Traverse City is “financially in stable condition” despite those challenges, according to Colburn. With some expenses deferred due to project delays and higher-than-expected revenues, the city has a “healthy fund surplus” that Colburn said will “assist us in our significant need for future investments into our building facilities, streets, and parks, as well as working on city commission goals such as housing and green activities.”
According to the city manager, the upcoming 2022-23 fiscal year – which begins July 1 – will include a “number of significant projects such as water and wastewater investments, street reconstruction and maintenance, bridges, Grandview Parkway US-31 improvements, park improvements, and working with partners on projects such as managing the watershed along Kids Creek and housing issues with private developers, nonprofits, and utilizing city properties for new uses.”
In terms of housing, which city commissioners have identified as a strategic priority, Colburn said that “housing to provide a transition out of homelessness is a specific area to address.” Staff are working with Safe Harbor and Goodwill on “building a facility to meet transitional housing needs,” according to Colburn, who said the project “will support creating a safe place to live while receiving services to assist people regaining their capacities to live and survive on their own.” Colburn said the city is working with local housing groups to provide housing vouchers to residents and exploring opportunities with the Grand Traverse County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and Grand Traverse County Land Bank Authority to develop more housing locally.
Park, green energy, and infrastructure upgrades also make up a significant portion of the budget. Colburn is recommending using $200,000 of the $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funds headed to the city to invest in expanding the city’s tree canopy, which will “help mitigate flooding by soaking up millions of gallons of stormwater” and “cool our heat imprint within the urban area and work towards sequestering carbon.” The city is continuing to invest in purchasing electric vehicles for its fleet when available, exploring repurposing a city property to establish a solar farm, and identifying more locations for electric vehicle charging stations, according to Colburn.
Park improvements including a planned new restroom at Brown Bridge Quiet Area, increased snowmaking capacity and planning for future bike trail expansion at Hickory Hills, and improvements at Boon, Ashton, Indian Woods, and F&M parks. One planned park project is recommended to be put on hold, however: While Parks and Recreation commissioners voted last fall to support installing two more volleyball courts at West End, Colburn said the city has “very limited land” along West Bay and should have more in-depth planning conversations before moving ahead with using that space for additional courts.
The need for more planning is a recurring refrain in the 2022-23 budget. In addition to the city going through a master plan rewrite, Colburn is recommending surveying city properties and planning for a potential “city campus” if needed in the future to house city services. The city and Grand Traverse County currently share the Governmental Center on Boardman Avenue, with the county owning the majority stake. Grand Traverse County has announced plans to eventually consolidate its operations into two campuses on Boardman Avenue and Lafranier Road. “With the county proceeding with the potential moving of certain governmental services, it is difficult at this time to fully understand the fiscal ramifications and impacts on city services and facilities,” Colburn wrote. Planning now for a potential city campus will help the city prepare for different possibilities as the county moves forward, Colburn indicated, adding that the city needs to review all its current agreements with the county and plan for next steps at buildings where the two entities share operational space, like the Senior Center and the Traverse City Fire Department station on West Front Street.
Colburn’s budget also calls for adding several city staff positions next year, including a second assistant city manager and an engineer in the water/sewer department to assist with the high number of water and wastewater projects coming down the city pipeline. In addition to the reconstruction of Grandview Parkway – which will be discussed more at the commission’s May 16 meeting and could now be split into two phases in 2023 and 2024, depending on city bridge work and design/material delays – the city is also preparing for the reconstruction of Jefferson and Madison streets this upcoming year. Because the redesign of East Front Street has been delayed and will now likely be five years out, according to Colburn, $300,000 is budgeted to be split between the city and Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to do a “mill-and-fill” repair project on East Front Street between Grandview Parkway and Park Street to address deteriorating road conditions. Also on the DDA front, Colburn said that continued parking pressures downtown amid both public and private redevelopment of parking lots means that “a primary priority (should) be placed on proceeding with building the third downtown parking deck” planned for West Front Street.
Colburn concluded his budget summary by stating the 2022-23 plan is a “balanced approach of providing continuity of essential government services such as safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, public safety, (and) better and safer methods of mobility with more sidewalks and trails for citizens.” In addition to the city working with the DDA, Traverse Connect, and other economic development groups to support the business community “recovering from COVID-19 impacts as well as strengthening the partnerships that build a strong business community and climate,” Colburn said that “continuation of investment into our infrastructure and working on major planning efforts will prepare our community to evolve into a world-class city.” He added that “this includes working on human needs of mental and physical health of some of our most at-risk citizens,” as well as “being creative to build more housing for the working community.”Comment