Budget Hearings — Board of Review / OIG

Detroit City Council
Finance

Remote

This assignment is for two back-to-back budget hearings:
10:00am: Board of Review
11:00am: Office of the Inspector General

The full schedule of budget hearings may be found here.

Join meeting on Zoom: https://cityofdetroit.zoom.us/j/85846903626

Check the source website for additional information

Reporting

Edited and summarized by the Detroit - MI Documenters Team

Note-taking by Eric McCormick

Board of Review: The Pay as You Stay (PAYS) helped save 12,000 people from tax foreclosure, and the Homeowners Property Exemption (HOPE) program will sunset next year absent additional action. OIG: Closed 16 of 24 new investigations, Kamau Marable expected to succeed Ellen Ha.

Live reporting by Amelia Benavides-Colón

Board of Review: The Pay as You Stay (PAYS) helped save 12,000 people from tax foreclosure, and the Homeowners Property Exemption (HOPE) program will sunset next year absent additional action. OIG: Closed 16 of 24 new investigations, Kamau Marable expected to succeed Ellen Ha.

Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon
Rise and shine, Detroit 🌇🌞
I’m covering all four of today’s Detroit City Council Budget Hearings for @DetDocumenters !!
Check out our media partners:
@BridgeDet313 @chalkbeatDET @freep @media_outlier @metrotimes @michigan_public @PlanetDetroit @wdet @wxyzdetroit

06:36 AM Mar 28, 2024 CDT

Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 2/96
Today's meetings will wrap up Week 3 of this year's 46 budget hearings, all of which were covered in partnership by @DetDocumenters & @BridgeDet313
These meetings tell us exactly where the $ is being spent & what future plans are
Catch up on them all:
outliermedia.org/detroit-budget…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 3/96
All of the budget hearings are held at 2 Woodward Ave., Suite 1340 in the Coleman A Young municipal center,
Or you can join virtually or watch live or stream on Channel 10:
detroitmi.gov/government/cit…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 4/96
First up on today’s agenda is the Board of Review Budget Hearing at 10 a.m.
This body hears and determines appeals concerning real estate and personal property. The Board of Review is one of the only opportunities a taxpayer has to appeal before taxation.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 5/96
Today the Board of Review will answer questions from City Council’s 2024-25 budget analysis.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s Office recommends $930,397 for FY2025, which is a $4,047 increase from FY2024.
Their questions:
detroitmi.gov/sites/detroitm…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 6/96
Once we wrap up with BOR it’ll be right into the Office of Inspector General budget hearing at 11 a.m.
This body investigates waste, abuse, fraud & corruption in City gov., with jurisdiction extending to all employees, contractors and those seeking to do business with Detroit.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 7/96
For FY2025 Council has a host of questions for the department:
The mayor is proposing a FY2025 budget of $1,742,634
detroitmi.gov/sites/detroitm…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 8/96
now that you have everything you need to follow along - i’ll be back when it’s go time!
🩷🩷
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 9/96
today's agenda:
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 10/96
Looks like Council is still wrapping up the Planning & Economic Development Standing Committee -- I'll check back once it's budget time
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 11/96
Meeting is being called to order at 10 a.m. by Council President Mary Sheffield
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 12/96
** we just lost audio **
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 13/96
I got distracted and missed the meeting's beginning but it looks like we have two representatives of the Board of Review beginning the presentation
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 14/96
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HOPE = property tax exemption
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The program began to see a decline in 2023 as the housing market stabilized, BOR says
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BOR is giving a shoutout to Dan Gilbert's Detroit Tax Relief Fund for helping to stabilize the community
gilbertfamilyfoundation.org/keeping-detroi…
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2025 Priorities:
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 23/96
BOR says a recent change in state statutes took away BOR's ability to deviate from guidelines for "substantial and compelling reasons"
There's a part of Detroit experiencing severe medical debt that is harming their day-to-day life -- that BOR is now unable to assist
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 24/96
The budget request:
BOR says what they want is simple, the 2% increase everyone else is getting with the understanding that the recent tax reform ordinance added additional responsions to BOR
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BOR says they struggle to make the job appealing to members when there's no mileage or other benefits to offset the change in meeting location versus offices.
There should be an added per diem cost for those facing extra fees
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 26/96
Proper compensation is a top priority for the upcoming budget
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In conclusion
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BOR said a lot of what their job entails is listening to and managing pain... attending funerals... and assisting people through the worst phases of their lives. That undeniable service should be compensated accordingly, they said.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 29/96
A written response to the questions I posted earlier was submitted, and we are moving into councilmember questions
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 30/96
Sheffield is asking what the appropriate compensation would be.
BOR said they initially requested an additional $20,000 for FY2025, the 2% increase everyone else is getting would be around $18,000
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BOR said a major issue around the city is residents without bank accounts. Partnerships are being made with select banking institutions to allow residents to open accounts with ZERO balance - more information is coming soon
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 32/96
For clarification, the BOR is asking to add 3 days to board members yearly salary - which would be about $1,200
There is disagreement between Council and Board between what the Mayor is proposing versus what is being asked
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The 3 days were calculated to equate to the 2% bonus being distributed across other departments.
Inflation rates in 2023 were at about 5%
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 34/96
Question time:
Councilmember-at-large Mary Waters (second from the left) says BOR is not asking for enough money and they aren't giving themselves enough credit.
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Waters wants to know what happened to the outreach positions she made the budget for last year
BOR says the job is posted and working to be filled -- and they will follow-up after this meeting for an update because it is a highly needed position
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Councilmember for D-4 Latisha Johnson (far right)
Johnson she looks forward to the future prioritization of medical expense debt and appreciates the tireless work of BOR
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Johnson wants to know about the effectiveness of community outreach programs, how did that go in 2023?
BOR said it's a balancing act considering how new the programs are, they're a work in progress. He said better planning and intention should be put into the future ones
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Pro-Tem James Tate for D-1, (second from left)
How will BOR go about the full implementation of the automated services?
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BOR said the tool was not robust enough to fulfill all of the department's needs - so it needed to be revamped into a more efficient processing tool
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BOR said Rocket Mortgages has offered to put money into this new software, but only if the city of Detroit has skin in the game
The price: $600,000
It'll be a comprehensive software offering access to all applications and other services
$130,000 of grants left over from '23
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 41/96
Tate wants to know if that "skin in the game" is included in this budget?
No it's not, but it'll be around $200,000.
Tate is moving this topic into executive session to discuss further.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 42/96
Tate is also asking about the $85,000 dedicated to a liaison position in 2023 that was never filled.
What happened to those funds and is that salary built into the FY2025 budget?
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 43/96
That would fall into the Office of the Assessor budget, BOR said.
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Councilmember Scott Benson of D-3 (far left)
Benson said his greatest concern is that BOR is meant to be a grant-making program, and Council is intended to offer relief. What is the total value of that relief BOR provides to residents each year?
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 45/96
BOR said for 2022 that would average around $15 million through all jurisdictions.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 46/96
Of the current 15,000 applications, how many are new, Benson asks?
BOR said 2/3 of applications processed need to be re-applied each year, so 1-12K per year is the average
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 47/96
Benson said that Council is putting forward $1 million in exchange for $15 million in community relief through BOR.
So what programs is BOR connecting residents for them to sustain support after they get BOR's assistance?
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 48/96
Benson said if the BOR requires a standard level of relief each year, then why don't they just make that regular and meet on an as-needed basis - should we be offering you more money in order to continue operations, Benson proposes?
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 49/96
BOR said several inter-departmental conversations are taking place that can't be discussed yet
Dugann's Dept of Neighborhoods offers a level of similar services and has more authority than the BOR does - and they should be working together to serve people better, BOR said
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 50/96
Councilmember Gabriela Santiago-Romero of D-6 (second from right)
Santiago-Romero wants to know if BOR is working with the Lein Team to get support?
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 51/96
BOR said yes, they've worked together on several occasions.
What do you need to continue the PAYS program, Santiago-Romero asks?
A change in state law, BOR replied.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 52/96
More on Pay As You Stay:
detroitmi.gov/departments/of…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 53/96
Councilmember-at-Large Coleman Young II (right of Sheffield)
Young wants to know the impact of the 12,400 homeowners currently in the PAYS program
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 54/96
BOR said the answer to that question is unknown.
However, the transition of ownership throughout the city isn't new. The importance of a home's value on a person's life trajectory is something that must be weighed heavily. A number isn't known, but the circumstance is extigent
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 55/96
Young wants to know how his designation to the advertising budget was used? Is there a goal for who BOR wants to reach and how are they tracking those metrics?
BOR said there is still a relatively large # of people who struggle w/ tax responsibility (aka HOPE program)
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 56/96
The advertising budget was used for door-knocking efforts, nothing on television.
Young said he'll follow up on this later
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 57/96
Councilmember Fred Durhal III of D-7 (far left) wants to know how feedback from taxpayers is incorporated into community stakeholder suggestions for the future?
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 58/96
Property Assessment Board of Review Willie C. Donwell is breaking down into tears recounting the story of walking Detroiters through the loss of their homes. He said there was a recent occurrence triggering him, and people really need to understand the value of this role
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 59/96
Durhal wants to know about the assessor results showing overtaxation
BOR said the process as it is works, it just needs to be improved in certain areas to be more efficient. It's important to remember Detroit is older than most of America, he said
bridgedetroit.com/council-respon…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 60/96
Donwell said the assessing process is 40% technical, 60% art because of how old the homes are -- and lots of effort is being put into assessments
Durhal said he's open to starting a roundtable with Michigan legislators to discuss solutions
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 61/96
This concludes the Board of Review FY 2025 Budget presentation.
Closing remarks from Donwell, he's humbled and grateful by the role he serves.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 62/96
It's 11:47 a.m. and we may be behind schedule but that's okay - it's time for the Office of the Inspector General!
This body investigates waste, abuse, fraud & corruption in City gov., with jurisdiction extending to all employees, contractors & those seeking to do business.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 63/96
Representing OIG today is Inspector General Ellen Ha and Deputy Inspector General Kamau Marable
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 64/96
Ha says this will be her last budget meeting as her role expires this year -- she is asking for an increase this year
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Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 69/96
For context:
It was the OIG who made the decision on Tuesday to bar former contractor Bobby Ferguson from doing business with the city until March 2033 because of his affiliation with disgraced Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick
cbsnews.com/detroit/news/d…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 70/96
See the full OIG quarterly reports:
detroitmi.gov/government/off…
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Ha said approve the budget increase is a simple decision to make, as OIG provide a quality service and needs technological improvements in order to keep up
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 84/96
Ha said everyone should be aware that their data is being tracked at all times.
It's almost like she can sense me watching...
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 85/96
The charter also requires sufficient funds, and we are in an era where being tech-savvy is necessary for survival
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 86/96
This concludes Ha's presentation and we open the floor for questions.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 87/96
President Sheffield (queen in the red blazer) wants to know if any of the general funds have been set aside for emergencies - and if restitution payment is being collected
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 88/96
Tate has zero questions and made a motion to designate the requested $130K for the new position - he said OIG gets what they ask for because they show proof of the return on the investment with all their amazing work
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 89/96
Young also has no questions
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 90/96
Santiago-Romero wants to know what some of the common requests are - the answer is ticket complaints which doesn't fall in their territory
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 91/96
Johnson wants to know how recommendations are selected for follow-up
Ha said OIG doesn't have the authority to enforce its recommendations but the staff did decide to create a table in the quarterly report with the status of all recommendations
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 92/96
Johnson said she will be personally following up after hearing worrying advice given about circumventing the follow-up process
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 93/96
Johnson said she's hopeful Deputy Inspector Marable applies for the position as these transitions are usually the smoothest
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 94/96
This concludes the OIG Budget Presentation.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 95/96
Okie Dokie folks - this wraps up the morning session of the Detroit City Council Budget Hearings for #DETDocumenters. We now stand in recess at 12:30 p.m.
I'll be picking up this afternoon on a fresh thread, so this will end the morning session live-coverage
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 96/96
You can find more coverage at
documenters.org

Attachments

Agency Information

Detroit City Council

www.detroitmi.gov

See Documenters reporting

The Detroit City Council is the legislative body of Detroit, Michigan, United States. The Council is responsible for the creation of local laws—called ordinances. Additionally they pass resolutions, motions, and the proposed city budget. The full-time council is required to meet every business day for at least 10 months of the year, with at least eight of these meetings occurring at a location besides city hall. The council may convene for special meetings at the call of the mayor or at least four members of council. Areas of responsibility for the Budget, Finance and Audit Committee include, Budget, Finance and the Auditor General.

City Council members are elected on the same cycle as the Mayor and will be elected in 2021. Seven members represent the seven council districts, while two members are elected at-large.

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