City budget sets the stage for debate on future Fire Department funding

This year’s new city budget has four positions in the Fire Department eliminated. That cut has spurred debate among city officials on whether the department can properly function.

This year’s new city budget has four positions in the Fire Department eliminated. That cut has spurred debate among city officials on whether the department can properly function.



By Charles Sercombe
City officials recently adopted their new budget for the city but there is already a financial bump in the road.
The coming budget year, which starts on July 1 and runs through June 30 of 2019, eliminates four positions in the Fire Department.
That cut prompted Fire Chief Danny Hagen to tell city councilmembers that it will affect the department’s ability to fight fires.
Hagen said he needs at least two positions restored. Otherwise, he said, the department will be forced to pay overtime to firefighters to meet the minimum staffing requirement set by the firefighters’ contract.
Hagen warned the council to not balance the budget “on the back of the Fire Department.”
Those cuts prompted Councilmembers Ian Perrotta and Andrea Karpinski to be the only two councilmembers to oppose the budget.
The staffing cut, said Karpinski, “doesn’t make sense to me.”
Perrotta said he voted against the budget based on Hagen’s recommendation to have two more positions.
“I had to abide by what he said,” Perrotta said. “I wasn’t trying to be an obstructionist.”
Acting City Manager Kathy Angerer said she was forced to make the cuts because the city can’t afford the additional positions.
“We all want a safer city, but we have to live within our means,” she said.
This year’s total budget is $16.6 million. There was a $6.5 million surplus but almost $600,000 is being drawn down. About $400,000 of that draw down will go toward a proposed expanded alley repaving project. The council still has to agree to the proposal.
Some $180,000 is needed to pay down an old debt.
Out of the general fund, 54 percent is spent on city employee salaries, which includes city hall employees, police officers and firefighters.
Some 18 percent goes toward pension costs. The total cost for pensions is $3 million and it will be going up in the coming years. Acting City Manager Kathy Angerer said the pension fund is only at a 48 percent funding level, which she said is “really, really low.”
Angerer said Hamtramck is not alone in not being able to fund its pensions at an acceptable level. She said many other communities in the state have underfunded pensions.
The city’s legal budget – which includes paying for the city attorney – is set at $300,000. It’s not unusual for that cost to exceed its budgeted amount.
The cost of picking up and disposing garbage is $700,000.
Four code enforcement officers will be hired this year and they will be working evenings and weekends to catch homeowners doing major home improvements without having a permit.
The Fire Department eats up $3.3 million while the Police Department costs $3.9 million. The Fire Department’s salaries have been paid through a federal grant for the past two years.
That grant runs through January of next year. It is not expected to be renewed. City officials will be tasked with coming up with a way to budget $3 million for the salaries of firefighters.
This is an issue that will likely lead to heated discussions.

June 29, 2018

5 Responses to City budget sets the stage for debate on future Fire Department funding

  1. Jeremy

    June 30, 2018 at 12:47 am

    I was bummed to hear that we would lose four firefighters so that we could pay a lawyer the salary of six firefighters. Any chance that this lawyer will do anything close to risking his life for the safety of any citizens? I’m betting on no. Any takers?

  2. John Dory

    June 30, 2018 at 2:35 pm


    Believe it or not the $300,000.00 budgeted for legal services is a decline from $500,000.00 per annum under former City Manager Katrina Powell.

    Legal costs are going down since the Giarmarco Mullins Horton term was replaced by James Allen.

    More cost reductions could happen if the City of Hamtramck had an in-house legal department only contracting out to private firms highly-specialized legal work.

  3. Jeremy

    June 30, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    That is good to hear. Do you think that the cheaper lawyers will be less likely or more likely to rescue someone from a burning building?

    Interestingly, there’s a link on the city website titled “How do we measure up?” that leads to a SEMCOG page where you can compare 91 municipalities in southeast Michigan. In the section titled “How my city compares”, Hamtramck is 44th on the list with a population of 21,752, total revenues of $17,304,952 and revenues per capita of $796. Wyandotte, a similarly sized city, is 48th with a population of 24,955, total revenues of $19,074,355 and revenues per capita of $764. It seems that they’ve got a similar budget and have lower per capita revenues than us and yet they aren’t always talking about laying off cops and firefighters and don’t go into receivership as a matter of routine. So what’s really going on here?

  4. Ken Hissong

    July 4, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    Another issue involving the Fire Department is the mutual response with Detroit. Because of this mutual response, our equipment is wearing out faster than it would be normally. Will Detroit kick in to help us pay for a new engine or ladder truck when ours wear out?

  5. Richard

    July 5, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    Ken, while the equipment might be wearing out more quickly, there’s a lot you’re not considering. Many times already equipment has gone to the dfd repair shop and has been fixed almost immediately and for free. While Detroit isn’t going to give Hamtramck money, the likelihood of receiving grants for new apparatus with this mutual aid agreement is almost a sure thing if written correctly. There’s also the possibility of “adding on” when Detroit buys it’s next batch of apparatus where Hamtramck would get a substantial discount because Detroit orders many trucks at a time instead of the one single truck Hamtramck would be buying.

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