Traverse City Record-Eagle

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January 28, 2013

More Taverse City funding for streets, pensions?

TRAVERSE CITY — City commissioners' wish lists for the launch of the annual budget process include more money for streets and pensions and less for recreation programs.

Commissioners will discuss items they want added to or subtracted from the 2013-2014 budget during their study session today at 7 p.m. in the Governmental Center.

City Manager Ben Bifoss said he already has heard individually from several commissioners about favored projects they want to see in the next budget year that begins July 1.

"What I don't know is if there is board consensus," Bifoss said.

Mayor Michael Estes wants the commission to boost annual spending on streets and sidewalk repairs to $1.5 million.

"This year we raised it to $1.1 million, but that does not adequately address what we need," Estes said. "We've been told we need $1.5 million a year, and I'm prepared to push for that."

Other commissioners also voiced support for raising the contribution to city infrastructure repairs, but by a lesser amount.

Commissioner Mike Gillman wants the city to put about $250,000 more toward streets and push an extra $250,000 into reducing the city's unfunded pension liabilities.

Neither Gillman nor Estes expect much movement on two big expenditure issues: Hickory Hills ski area and the city fire department.

Both are part of ongoing discussions and the city doesn't expect to resolve them by the time the budget comes up for a vote in June.

Gillman suggested the city ask Grand Traverse County to take over the few recreation programs it operates, including the city's money-making summer camp program.

"It would run recreation on a county-wide basis, and I think that would be an intelligent thing to do," he said. "There have been people for a long time who have been advocates of a single recreation program, and it makes sense."

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