City budget workshop planned for January

by Peter Jakey

Managing Editor

Onaway city officials are getting ready to work on the 2015-16 budget. Meeting dates were established at the Dec. 8 meeting.

With everyone’s busy schedules through the holidays, it’s not always easy coming up with that first meeting date, but city manager Joe Hefele narrowed it to Jan. 19 as a part of the regular city commission meeting.

“If we can keep the agenda light and keep that the focus,” said Joe Hefele.

Per the city charter, the commission needs to have a copy of the first draft before February 1. It needs to be approved before the start of the new fiscal year, April 1.

“In the first meeting we go over the bare-bones budget,” said Hefele. “I indicate what we have to use above and beyond our other expenses. We look at streets, water and equipment purchases.”

The commission tried to schedule it for Dec. 29, but that was not going to work, so they decided to have the two meetings as one. It is Martin Luther King Day; however, city hall will be open and the meeting will go on at the regular scheduled time of 5:30 p.m.

PRIOR TO getting that on the calendar, the commission discussed road funding legislation and proposed gas tax increases being debated in Lansing.

Hefele said the Michigan Municipal League and Gov. Rick Snyder support the senate version of a new gas tax to fix roads.

“It would be the same way the Act 51 dollars are distributed, but it would increase our revenue by 85 percent,” said Hefele. “So, when I get that street plan done, it would immediately allow us to implement that plan. I have not done the figures for what it means here, but I have done them in Rogers City. I worked on the same thing there.

“For 20 years, we have every section, every width, section and cost in Rogers City. We need about $208,000 over there to implement it. For them, it would be about $208,000 additional dollars. It would be enough to immediately implement a street plan without any type of street millage.”

Hefele believes, once he has completed the street plan, it will be the same thing in Onaway.

“The House plan is eliminating the one percent sales tax on fuel, which makes sense, but it is not being replaced,” said Hefele.

The city manager said the governor was traveling around the state touting the senate version. He fully supports the Senate version.

“There are a number of people in the House today who are not living in the real world,” said commissioner Chuck Abshagen. “They believe that government does not need money to function. That is just inconceivable that they are doing these kinds of things. They are going to destroy our state and they don’t worry about that, because with term limits, they are not going to be here to live with the consequences.”

Abshagen said some House members are “So opposed to any taxes at all, and yet they cannot provide the services without increased taxes.”

Mayor Gary Wregglesworth added: “I think their inaction has already imposed a tax on everyone by means of added car repairs. People are dying on our roads at night because plow trucks don’t have the money go out.

“If you were allotted money in 1993 when they last raised the gas tax for gasoline, and you had to live with that same budget today, you would not be buying much gasoline.”

Hefele said the governor’s big focus remains street funding as he heads to the end of the year.

“The Senate plan is a good plan,” said Hefele. “It would allow the two communities I serve to implement real street plans. In 20 years we could get to everything.”

“Gas is down a dollar-and-a-half and nobody is going to notice 20 to 30 cents,” said Wregglesworth. “In the last two years we have endured gas at $4.50 a gallon. Can’t we send some to Lansing to fix our communities.”