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Tuesday May 23, 2017
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Shrinking City Government



The mayor and city council cut their own staff by 50 percent--but they had only 1.5 FTEs to begin with. Hardest hit of all were procurement and risk management. With most procurement now handled by the operating units, that department was all but eliminated, shrinking from six full-timers to one. And risk management was eliminated, going from four full-timers to one part-timer working under the city's chief financial officer.

The staff cuts let the city balance its budget despite soaring health care and retirement costs and falling state and federal funding. Unlike Flint, Detroit, and even, Hieftje suggests, Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor is in no danger of being taken over by a state emergency manager.

Even with 30 percent fewer employees, the snow still gets plowed, the grass still gets mowed, and the phones still get answered. The snow gets deeper, the grass grows longer, and some calls may go to voicemail--but overall, it's amazing how little impact the cuts have had on Ann Arborites' lives.

After examinations of police and fire staffing last year (Observer, May and December 2011), this story looks at how the changes played out for a couple of less familiar but no less necessary city services: field operations and planning. Both gained responsibilities even as they lost employees, forcing them to do more with less. And they did--but at what cost?

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