Engineering, environment program reductions

November 15, 2019

Cuts within the Bloomfield Township Engineering and Environmental Services Department (EESD) could provide a savings of $2,400 to $274,000 per year from the general fund by eliminating some programs, the department's director told the township's governing body on Monday, November 11.

Engineering and Environmental Services Director Olivia Olsztyn-Budry presented an outline of program cuts that could be considered by the board of trustees in order to close a structural budget deficit related to other post employment benefits (OPEB) liabilities.

Bloomfield Township voters on August 6 rejected a proposed 2.3-mill special assessment district (SAD) dedicated to police and fire operations that would provide a dedicated funding source for about two-thirds of OPEB and pension liabilities owed by the township. The township must fund about $64 million in OPEB liabilities over the next three decades under a new state law that requires municipalities to prepay at least 40 percent of those costs. Township departments have since been presenting potential budget reduction options to help close the funding shortfall.

"A lot of the EESD's responsibilities are mandated by regulatory requirements," Budry said.

The department, which was created in 2005, currently has five full-time employees, down from six full-time employees and one part-time employee in 2005. Budry said none of the potential cuts outlined in her presentation include the elimination of staff.

Potential cuts could include elimination of the township's gypsy moth contract, which could provide an annual savings of about $182,000. Currently, the township is contracted with Gypsy Moth Management until 2023. Elimination of the township's West Nile virus treatment program could provide a savings of about $2,400 per year. Additionally, the township could defer flooding and draining issues related to Chapter 20 Drain issues — which includes consulting and engineering services — to the Oakland County Water Resource Commissioner's Office, which could provide a varying degree of savings.

"Chapter 20 drains are created and established by the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner's Office," she said. "Many of the drainage channels in the township are private, and until a drainage district is established the township nor the county has any means to maintain that channel. It's essentially part of the private property owners'."

Chapter 20 drains include not only drainage pipes, but other established waterways and open drain channels. In order to establish a drain, the township must petition Oakland County, which traditionally includes a cost estimate by the township.

"These costs typically include surveying the drainage route and identifying methodology for drainage," she said.

Budry said annual costs are based on need and response in the township, meaning the cost varies widely from year to year and is more than likely a one-time savings.

"As you can see, the only real significant savings on an annual basis would be that gypsy moth program," Bloomfield Township Supervisor Leo Savoie said. "If someone wanted to cut the gypsy moth program, we would have to put it on the agenda for the next meeting. My only caution there is that Rochester Hills stopped it a few years ago and the return was so invasive that this past year they had to go to arial spraying, and they notified residents they would do it at night to avoid any adverse effects to pets or people. I don't think that is where we want to go, given almost 22 year ago when we needed to do that the outcry was tremendous from the residents, and I don't think we want to go back there. Everything else is insignificant."

Trustee Neil Barnett concurred with Savoie.

"I would be totally opposed to doing anything with the gypsy moth funding," he said. "I do recall the outcry and problems we had in the township. We have come a long way and it's under control. I would hate to see us take several steps backward only to then maybe a year or two in the future having to spend significantly more than that. Part of what we are here for the safety and welfare of the residents and look out for them, and (eliminating) that I think would certainly be a poor decision."

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