The development boom taking place in Rochester Hills could be considered a welcomed challenge for the municipality, as the community has been well served by its city council, department heads and an administration that has tempered potential growing pains with proactive planning.
As noted in April in the Rochester Hills State of the City address, the city has seen a 61-percent increase in new housing, increased property values and an all-time high in business occupancies. Simultaneously, the city has been recognized as the safest city in the state, according to FBI crime data. More recently, building permits for the first six months of 2017 are up 73 percent over the first six months of 2016.
While unprecedented growth in the city is undoubtedly a factor in the city's ability to provide high levels of service, it's not the only one. Despite the growth, the city's overall taxable value is still below its peak of $3.75 billion that it enjoyed in 2008. And while the city's proposed budget of nearly $330 million for 2018 is almost 10 percent below its 2017 budget, department heads recommended increasing both fire department and sheriff's office personnel in the city.
How can they do that? A large factor contributing to the city's success has been the collaborative and proactive planning by the city council. City council's annual strategic planning and policy process allows priorities to be set each year, guiding policy and giving department heads direction.
We should also note that Rochester Hills was the first city in the state, that we are aware of, to use a three-year budget process. That process, modeled in part on Oakland County's budget process, uses a forward-focused budget to plan for issues before they occur. Council members should also be praised for consistently showing up prepared and knowledgeable about the issues at hand.
Also worth mentioning is the level of professionalism and preparation displayed by department heads. Whether working collaboratively with staff, council or the public, they demonstrate the culture of preparation and participation everyday.
The proactive steps taken by the city help ensure the city is ready for the increased development in the city, while still maintaining the character of the community that drew in new development and is retaining longstanding residents. For instance, a current push by council to spur the city's efforts to improve the Auburn Road corridor will benefit existing businesses and residents, as well as attract new ones, and separate businesses in an area of the city from vibrant neighborhoods.
While there is no 'one size fits all' style for government operations on the local level, we applaud Rochester Hills as a working model. We look for it to continue growing and thriving.