News : Call Center, Ordinance Highlight of Taylor Budget Meetings
Taylor, April 28, 2014 -- A marathon week of budget meetings ended Thursday with the customer assistance center and ordinance departments taking center stage.
Both proposed budgets were hot topics at the meeting, which was the third during the week by the City Council.
A special council meeting to vote on the 2014-15 budget is scheduled.
The customer assistance center was among the budgets reviewed Thursday.
The center is the hub that handles all phone calls to City Hall and doubles as a customer service office. It is staffed with seven clerks and one manager. The center receives about 75,000 calls a year — roughly 36 per hour.
An eighth clerk is on long-term disability, and if other clerks use time off or sick days, that also can leave the center short-handed.
Mayor Rick Sollars bristled after Councilwoman Linda Roberts said the center is not servicing the customers, calling it "ridiculous."
He said the complaints about long waits on the phone come after three minutes just as much as after 30 minutes, and that the "abnormal" experiences are more likely to be reported than the positive ones.Roberts and Councilman Tim Woolley spoke about the data entry requirements of the outdated computer software they use and how the clerks split time between the counter and the phones.
No new positions will be granted to the call center, but Sollars believes service can be improved by upgrading software and more training.
The call center has a proposed budget with a protion set aside for software.
Ordinances also were discussed, with Dave Mackie, director of the Department of Public Works, saying building inspectors also work in ordinance including animal control.
An ordinance inspector position would be added under the proposed budget.
Councilman Charley Johnson said the city needs to do better enforcing ordinances, saying he drove past three couches sitting in the front yards of houses on his way in.
Councilman Dan Bzura spoke about increasing fines for ordinance violations and said he would like Taylor to have the highest in the area to send a message. "I want to hammer them," he said.
Also discussed was the dangerous building ordinance and that the city currently has a demolition list of 20 houses.
Sollars said some of the houses might qualify under the federal Community Development Block Grant classification, which would defray the city’s demolition cost.
The meeting began with the 23rd District Court budget being discussed with Judges William Sutherland and Geno Salomone.
Sutherland and Salomone said court clerks should receive raises, after having worked for the last five years without pay increases.
The new budget adds two people, increasing the staff to 29.
On Wednesday, the new city assessor, Jerry Markey, was introduced as the meeting covered budgets for his office.
Also discussed were the budgets for the council, city attorneys, the city clerk, treasurer, human resources, risk management and among others.
Human Resources Director Sheila Gorski-Schulte said she will present an insurance plan in June with likely increases due to higher costs under the Affordable Care Act.
Uncertainty about whether a fire grant will be extended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency complicated review of the fire services budget, with the provision that it can be amended if the extension is granted.
A few of the councilmembers said revenue from transport could be banked under the next grant.
"We could make money and improve service by bringing back transport," Bzura said. "Treat the grant like a millage and make money."
Police Chief Mary Sclabassi said her department is adding eight new officers, which would bring it to 73. That still is down 13 from the 86, which is the minimum number she says would be needed. The 24-square-mile city has a population of approximately 62,100.
After Sclabassi said one officer recently resigned to join the Warren Police Department for a raise of $3 an hour, the starting rate for new officers was discussed.
Starting officers earn about $17 per hour, which is at the low end of what departments pay, according to Sollars. He said he wants to examine bumping the rates with the next police contract.
Renovation of the police dispatch center should begin in the next couple of weeks, Sclabassi said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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