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Sewer, water commodity rate increase, new road projects highlight city budget preview

Three Rivers City Finance Director Bobbi Schoon details the city’s upcoming Fiscal Year 2025 budget during Tuesday’s City Commission meeting. (COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON)

By Robert Tomlinson
News Director

THREE RIVERS — An incremental hike in sewer and water commodity rates and new road projects highlighted a preview of what is to come in the budget for the City of Three Rivers.

City Finance Director Bobbi Schoon presented the Fiscal Year 2025 budget proposal to the Three Rivers City Commission Tuesday, which calls for $24 million in revenues and $26.2 million in expenditures between all city funds for the year beginning July 1, including $6.2 million in revenue and $7.15 million in expenditures in the general fund.

The budget is not finalized, as the city is expected to hold a public hearing for the fee schedule at its Tuesday, June 4 meeting, which will include the increase to water and sewer commodity rates, and adoption of the budget is required by June 18.

One of the biggest highlights will be an increase in the bimonthly water commodity rate up to $2.64 per 100 cubic feet and an increase in the bimonthly sewer commodity rate up to $3.63 per 100 cubic feet commodity. Those equal out to a 2 percent and 3.4 percent increase from 2023-24 respectively, where the rates were $2.60 and $3.51 respectively. The commodity rate is not the fixed rate for water and sewer, but is the part of the fee based on how much water is used by a residence.

Mayor Tom Lowry said the issue of water and sewer in the city is a “political hot potato,” but that the increases would be beneficial to the city moreso than skipping a year and having to play catch up with rate increases down the road.

“I think it’s better to have a 1 percent or 2 percent or 3 percent increase every year versus punting and letting a future commission get stuck with it and then it goes up 10 or 20 percent,” Lowry said. “People will complain no matter what, but I think it’s more palatable to people with the rate of inflation.”

In addition to the rate increase, both the sewer and water funds will be used for capital improvements totaling $1.15 million from the sewer fund and $1.66 million from the water fund in 2024-25. The capital improvement projects include various sewer relining projects, replacing a final sampler, repairing or replacing the dump box on a 2015 dump truck, hydrant replacements, well generator replacements, an automatic transfer switch for one of the wells, water system vehicle replacements, and lead service line replacements.

The streets funds for the city also previewed upcoming projects for the 2024-25 fiscal year. For the Major Streets fund, projects to mill and fill Wood Street from East Michigan Avenue to Hoffman Street and putting in a new storm sewer on Hoffman Street were listed. In the Local Streets Fund, various unspecified sealing and microsurfacing projects were mentioned, and for the Municipal Streets Fund, Eleventh Avenue from Jefferson to Washington will be done, alongside sidewalk installation and replacement projects.

The biggest road project mentioned in the Municipal Streets Fund, however, was a planned full-road reconstruction of South Constantine Street from Broadway Street to the south city limits. Schoon said the work to be done includes building a whole new road, and putting in new drainage and sidewalks from Broadway to south of the city limits. The cost of each of the road projects was not discussed.

In total, the Municipal Streets Fund will have an estimated fund balance of over $4.2 million projected at the end of the 2024-25 fiscal year. Lowry asked why it was so high, and Department of Public Services Director Amy Roth said part of the reason was because the city was saving it for use on completing streets with possible lead line replacement projects, which the city did not receive funding from the state for in this grant cycle.

“Last year, we didn’t spend in municipal streets, we held the money because we did the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund application, so basically we’re spending last year’s funding and holding the current year, for lack of a better explanation,” Roth said, noting the city will see a second attempt at a Drinking Water State Revolving Fund application at the city’s next meeting. “If we get that water system money, we need some street money to help complete the streets that would be torn up with the water improvements. We’re about a year behind with what we’re spending on our street fund just so we have that money if we can get that grant or loan for the drinking water system.”

Other highlights from the proposed budget include the use of $300,000 in anticipated marijuana excise tax revenue to pay for the deputy police chief position, sponsoring a candidate for the police academy, and funding an aerial ladder apparatus for the fire department. Elsewhere in General Government funding through the general fund, the city is planning on budgeting for a part-time grant writer, remodeling part of City Hall, and IT updates for its server and firewall. In total, $1.669 million is budgeted for general government.

Public Safety funding in the general fund will total just under $3.4 million. The city will be budgeting for bulletproof vests, an upgraded property room management program, a scholarship for the police academy, PPE sets for firefighters, a positive pressure fan for the fire department, and a combination plow/brush truck.

In Public Works, $462,742 is budgeted for the fiscal year. Part of the budget includes an Airport Industrial Park sign replacement, work on the roadway to the airport’s box hangars, and paving the alleyway from Hoffman Street to Cushman Street. In Parks and Recreation, $298,179 is budgeted, with highlights including pavement replacement, repair and marking projects at Scidmore Park, Conservation Park, Memory Isle Park and Gleason Beal Park, as well as an expansion of park service cameras for all parks and new playground equipment at Memory Isle Park.

In the Ambulance Fund, the ambulance millage will remain the same and the transport mileage rate will be increased, but Schoon said there will be a change in the service fee structure, which she previewed in her comments. Exact numbers, however, were not discussed.

“Some of the rates will actually go down a bit, and some will go up a little bit more than normal,” Schoon said. “We reached out to professional billing agencies and asked what their structure was, and we’re mimicking that so that we can maximize our revenue for that department.”

In expenditures for the ambulance fund, Schoon said the staff split between General Fund and ambulance will be a 25/75 split based on call percentages. In terms of capital outlay, Schoon said the ambulance fund is budgeting for two ambulance stair chairs, a power loader for the ambulance, an ambulance stretcher, and two radios.

In terms of staffing and employment overall, the city is budgeting salary increases of 2 to 5 percent for most non-bargaining staff and union employees, with employee insurance benefits increased by approximately 3 percent. The city is also looking to add a part-time airport manager, a part-time library maintenance position, and the police cadet position.

Overall, Schoon said the city is in “solid financial health” going into the 2024-25 fiscal year.

“This budget is focusing on improving city infrastructure, maintaining equipment for emergency services, and improving our parks. We’re starting to earmark funds for some of those bigger things we need to do, like a ladder truck and renovations to City Hall,” Schoon said.

In other business…

  • Commissioners heard a presentation from Plante Moran on a possible future change in how water and sewer rates are calculated, going from a residential equivalent unit (REU) system to a readiness-to-serve (RTS) system, which would be partially based on the size of a household’s or business’ water meter. No action was taken on changing the rate calculation at this time.
  • Commissioners approved the first reading of an updated animal control ordinance, which includes additional restrictions on dangerous dogs and dogs at large in the city, and are intended to help animal control officers with enforcement. The ordinance is scheduled for a second reading and public hearing before possible adoption at the city’s May 21 meeting.
  • Commissioners approved draft ordinances of a DDA and Appeals Boards ordinance revision, a revision to district sign regulations, and a revision for spending limits. All will have a second reading and public hearing before possible adoption at the city’s May 21 meeting; the spending limits revision is slated for a public hearing at the city’s June 4 meeting.
  • Commissioners approved an additional $5,000 to cover chlorine gas at the wastewater treatment plant for the rest of the fiscal year.
  • Commissioners approved a purchase order of $145,147.38 to C&S Companies for consulting services for the first phase of an avigation easement project at the city airport.
  • Commissioners approved a change order of $11,690.95 for a sewer relining project.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or

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