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City of Mason City Council {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

Mason City Council. Vote for not more than 4

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  • Leslie W. Bruno Jr.

  • Matt Campell

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    Elaine Ferris

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    Angela Madden

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    Jerry Schaffer

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    Rita Vogel

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    Russell W. Whipple

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Biographical Information

What makes you more qualified than other candidates for this office?

What are the three most important issues facing the city and how would you address them?

As property tax revenue and state aid decline, is it appropriate for the county to assume a larger role in providing services to city residents? Yes or no, please explain.

What city services do you consider most vital?

What city services are least vital and can be trimmed to lower expenses?

Do you support raising taxes as a way to pay for road improvements? Yes or no, please explain.

What steps should the city take to address pension and healthcare liabilities?

Are you current in all tax, alimony and child support obligations? Yes or no. If no, please explain.

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Hometown Mason MI
Education Degree in English from MSU, other ongoing education courses.
Family Single, extended family in area.
Professional Experience Secretarial and office staff, 11 years staff to Recreation Board, Director Community Garden program, Parks/Forestry staff; Evanston, IL.
Political Experience 8 years Mason City Council, community volunteer, Hometown USA committee, Mason Chamber board, Kiwanis past president. 2016 Citizen of the Year
Insatiable curiosity-trying to learn something from everyone - or contribute to their knowledge of community events and services. Or learning the philosophy and history behind changes in city code or state/federal actions. I am deeply embedded in the quest to keep Mason the neighborly, "Hometown USA" community it is, while helping us manage growth.
Right now, the most important is keeping services in line with funding - we have kept the millage the same for 20 years but now need to work on trimming expectations to available funds and/or raising taxes. Information access is another important issue - we are feeling, more and more, a gulf between digital access (mainly city) and only weekly local newspaper access (surrounding area).with occasional posters. Third would be citizen involvement: as the Chamber of Commerce says - staff does not run the Chamber - you do. Same goes for local government. There are many opportunities for local input to help keep our city running smoothly and happily. All it takes is a little time!
Yes and no. County doesn't have funding either. I believe that some services may be regionalized and we are already trending in that direction with police and fire. Cooperation is possible if we can initiate change without dropping the ball on services. Whether this means asking for grants, using volunteer help or other means, we will always need some services available locally, especially medical.
Police, fire, and public works; the "bones" of the city. And city staff; because there's a lot of background experience that is invaluable to efficient services.
Already done in the last few years with tax decreases. None left to do. We have been using volunteers as well, wherever possible. Happy to consider any suggestions.
No. We have put into place dedicated millage for street improvements and streets are in decent shape and on schedule for upgrades. There is a PACER study which is updated to give us the next streets to be completed. We are working currently on budgeting for infrastructure improvements (under streets) at the time repairs are done.
I believe that's a bigger issue. We are responding to oscillating changes with insurance and on a state level with pensions. When that levels out, we will be better able to budget for changes. We are striving to be fair to employees and not bankrupt the system. This is an ongoing problem and is being worked on.
Yes.
Hometown Mason, MI
Education MPA, The George Washington University BA, Michigan State University
Family Husband, Ryan Children, Colm (9) and Moira (6)
I am more qualified for the Mason City Council because I personally represent the families that are moving in to our City. I am more representative of a growing population of our residents.
There most important issue facing Mason is economic development. We must encourage family-friendly businesses to locate in the City. This includes connecting the Cedar Street corridor to the Downtown business district.
It is appropriate for the County to provide county-wide services. It may be beneficial for the municipalities to work together and consolidate services under the county umbrella to cut costs. However, it is important for Mason to maintain our identity and we must expect to pay for services we cannot consolidate.

There is also a role for special purpose funding from the County or other sources. These funds can be helpful in connecting Mason to our other county brethren.
The most vital city services are public safety and public works.
All city departments must actively and effectively monitor their budgets. There is no one city service that can't be seen by one person as vital. We must remember that when budgeting.
In order to effectively improve our roads, we must take a well-rounded approach to funding the construction. This means that users (drivers) must contribute. This can be done through increased fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees. However, there are essential city services that must also use the roads (busing, police, fire, etc). Because these services are essential for our citizens, the State must also make a vast investment in making the improvements.
Unfunded or underfunded pension and healthcare liabilities are a significant issue for localities. A well-rounded approach must be taken to address the issue. The expectation must be to increase retirement age or vesting periods as well as putting larger amounts of city revenue into the funds annually, instead of waiting until the last minute to pay a very large bill.
Yes, I am current in all tax and other obligations.
Hometown Jackson
Education BS from Western Michigan University
Family Married to Denise Cheney Schaffer Six adult children
Professional Experience I worked 35 years in the construction industry, city government and in sales.
Political Experience I have a long history of involvement in a local government committees and public school advisory committees
I am not a life-long politician. I am a common-sense problem solver. I have no political agenda or grudge to guide my decision-making. My only interest in this election is to serve the residents of Mason and to work as a Council member to provide the best quality of life in this wonderful city. We all agree that Mason is a great place to live, work and raise a family. I am most dedicated to preserving and balancing Mason's historic past with the growth that is vital to a vibrant community. I live and work every day in Mason, have no health concerns, and follow city ordinances and laws. I do not support medical marijuana business development in Mason.
1. Revenue sharing: I would work to pressure the State government to restore revenue sharing to the levels that were present before poor decision-making cut revenue sharing to historically low levels. 2. City budget: Make sure that the needs and wants of Mason's citizens are prioritized within the City of Mason's budget. 3. Taxes: Be ever-vigilant of all taxation, especially rising water and sewage costs.
No! The more we drift toward larger governmental units the less local control residents have. We need to recognize the needs of the local residents and work toward prioritizing and developing funding sources and other resources to solve their concerns and needs. While there are legitimate services that should be provided by the county, such as law enforcement, road maintenance on State roads, and county-wide record keeping, we should focus on local decision making. Locals know what is necessary for Mason.
Police, fire, water & sewer, and public works (street repair and maintenance, park maintenance, cemetery care, etc.). are fundamental to a successful community. The core services must be maintained to provide a high level of local services and to draw new citizens and businesses to Mason.
I believe our current City budget is carefully crafted and implemented. Being ever-watchful that all city contract work is fair and equitable is an area of responsibility I would take very seriously.
This is a very narrow question. New taxes should always be a last resort to any problem. Mason does a good job maintaining our local roads. We have little control over State trunk lines or County controlled roads. Collaboration with those units of government is key in maintaining quality roads. Since the State government cut revenue sharing to Mason, we have had to spend more "local" monies in maintaining our roads-- another reason to pressure the State to restore funding to revenue sharing.
This is not an area in which I am educated enough to give a complete and firm answer. When elected I will study and ask questions to learn. If there is a problem, I will welcome and want all comments and ideas from our residents.
Yes.
Hometown Mason, MI
Education Mason High School LCC and MSU
Family Single, 3 Children-Erica, Easton and Evelyn
Professional Experience Business Owner-Just Ask, Personal Concierge Medical Assistant Instructor-Kaplan College Assistant Research Coordinator, Human Genetic Resource Program-Medical College of Wisconsin
Political Experience Member, City of Mason Historic District Commission Member, Mason Sesquicentennial Committee
I am extremely involved in my community. In addition to currently serving on the city's Historic District Commission, I have served on Mason's Sesquicentennial Committee, the Mason Public Schools Foundation board, Mason Rotary Club Board, Mason State Bank 5k committee, and the Mason Farmer's Market board. I am an active member of my community, in tune with the pulse of Mason. I have a good rapport with existing members of city council, often suggesting changes that I see could be helpful for our city. I am eager to bring energy and a new perspective that reflects the needs of all of our community members, young and old alike.
Our city is facing a real budgetary crisis in the next few years. Of the nearly 40 mills in property taxes that the city collects, only 13 mills are actually captured by the city. Additionally, of those 13 mills, 4 mills are required to be used for streets. This leaves the city with a net operating budget of 9 mills. Mason's tax rate is one of the lowest in the area, and with other communities struggling to meet their obligations at a higher tax rate, I would say that Mason has done well. It is time for us to look at increasing tax revenue. This isn't a popular idea, but it is one that is going to be necessary to maintain and improve city services.
Yes. As previously discussed, Mason collects around 40 mills in property tax. A majority of those taxes are county taxes. Mason pays a great deal to the county for millages that largely benefit Lansing and other communities. Indeed, one of our landmark parks, Rayner Park, was nearly lost due to the county not wanting to maintain it. We were fortunate to work out a deal to save Rayner Park. Recently, the county passed a parks and trails millage, which the city of Lansing would like a majority of funds to improve its parks and trails. I believe that we should be working regionally and not selfishly, so that we aren't faced with another Rayner Park decision.
Obviously, police, fire, water and streets are the most vital services. These should be maintained as much as possible. After that, we need to work on economic development. Our downtown should be thriving and we should be actively working to attract businesses to purchase property and locate to the Temple Street property the city owns and is selling. I think we should look at allocating more resources to the Zoning and Development department. This department is key in helping businesses locate to Mason and we definitely could use more staff.
Our city is working on a shoestring budget as it is. With a net operating budget of 9 mills, we have "made due" for 20 years without a tax increase. We have cut about as much as we can. Rather than cutting services we should be looking at how some things, like televised broadcasts of meeting can be done more efficiently through use of newer technology. Small fixes can have big impacts. For example, broadcasting a meeting takes two paid staff members, one to monitor the recording equipment and one to operate the cameras. By updating the broadcast equipment and software we can run more efficiently.
No. Our city already dedicates 4 of its 13 mill budget to streets. Nearly a quarter of our budget is already dedicated to streets. Additionally, we have in the past, been beneficiaries of state and county grants for street improvements. Those grants should serve as supplements to the dedicated millage for streets, not a replacement. If taxes are to be increased, we need to use the additional revenue for economic development efforts.
The city's pension and healthcare liabilities have increased in the last few years, even though we have not added much staff. The city's pension carrier has changed its mortality tables (people are living longer) and reduced its interest rate, making the city's overall liability greater. We need to examine if the current pension carrier is the best one for us.
Yes
Hometown Mason, Michigan
Education M.S. Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1990), B.S. Mechanical Engineering with Finance Minor, GMI Engineering & Management Institute (current Kettering University) (1986), Mason High School graduate (1981)
Family Wife: Judy for 21 years. Son: Foster 19 years old. Daughter: Lydia 16 years old. Daughter: Grace Ann 13 years old
Professional Experience Engineer at General Motors (1983-2000), Engineer and Project Manager at Eckhart & Associates (2000-2004), Fire Fighter, Mason Fire Department (1990-present)
Political Experience Mason City Council (1993-2008), Mayor of Mason (1995-2004)
I served 16 years on Mason City Council (1993-2008), including 10 years leading the Council as Mayor (1995-2004). I have served as the City Council representative on the following: Downtown Development Authority (1995-2004), Historic District Commission (1994-1996), Water & Sewer Rate Study Committee (1994-1996), and Selection Committee for Engineering Consultant, Publicly Owned Water Treatment Works expansion project (1994). In addition, I managed the codification of the City Charter and all City Ordinances (1999) and led two separate committees in full re-writes of the City Zoning Ordinance. I a member of the Mason Fire Department (1990-present), currently serving as 1st Lieutenant.
There is really only one “most important” issue facing the City and that is a structural deficit in the City budget. Correction of this defect will require making choices to balance the level of services offered with revenue available. The City should implement multi-year budgeting as the norm for each budget cycle and adopt clear capital improvement and maintenance plans for all city assets and equipment, including the underlying source for funding those plans. Finally, the City Council must be disciplined to adopt budgets that fund fulfillment of the capital maintenance and improvement plans as well as public safety operations as primary objectives.
No. The decline in tax revenue and state aid impacts the county just as it impacts the City. Therefore, there is no real net gain for tax payers to move money from the county to the City while there is a net loss of control for the City. The City of Mason is a Home Rule City chartered by the State of Michigan and as such should make every effort to be as autonomous as possible. The tools and necessary resources are at the City’s disposal to fund a level of services that meet the basic needs of Mason residents. The challenge is to establish what services above the basic needs are warranted and to implement a long term budgetary plan that commits sufficient revenue over time.
Public safety, including police, fire, water and sewer, building regulation, road maintenance, and refuse services.
The “least vital’ services offered by the City of Mason do not represent, relatively speaking, a substantial cost to the City so there is limited opportunity for significant expense reduction. In fact, the potential for cost reduction may exist in many or all City services. The key is to right-size the level of services offered to satisfy the true needs of the City within the revenue that is available regardless of whether the service is considered “most” or “least” vital.
The City is required by Charter to appropriate a minimum amount of money to street capital maintenance and improvement each year. Therefore, the City should have a long term plan in place that stipulates the expected costs for street maintenance and improvement year to year. Proper maintenance of City streets (and all other City assets) is critical to maintaining the character and economic viability of Mason. If all other available sources of money for street maintenance and improvement are not sufficient to fund a responsible long term street maintenance and improvement plan, I would be willing to consider raising the property tax millage.
The management of pension and healthcare liabilities must be handled in the same manner as the management of City assets and equipment. There should be long term plans set in place and regularly monitored to fully fund these obligations. But it is equally important that every effort is made to ensure that these obligations to employees are reasonable relative the resources available to the City. The goal of the City should be to implement compensation plans that control the future costs of such obligations.
Yes.

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