New city manager sees potential in Ypsilanti, says financial picture may not be so bleak
Two revenue-generating proposals were rejected by Ypsilanti voters May 8 and that has propelled two anti-tax candidates onto the Democratic ticket for the upcoming council elections, which are promising to be as contentious as any other Ypsilanti election cycle.
The city is considering laying off seven firefighters as it crafts a budget it must have completed by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, and its reserves to pay down Water Street debt won’t last past this budget cycle.
via Henry County website
But he said it’s Ypsilanti's potential that attracted him to the position. He believes the city, which is projecting a $6.1 million deficit in 2017, may be in better shape than some thought for a variety of reasons.
“There are an unbelievable amount of positive assets in the neighborhoods; it’s a matter of pulling them together,” Lange said. “They can be a catalyst for a lot of good things.”
Lange brings several years of economic development experience after serving the past four years as head of the Henry County (OH) Improvement Corporation. Prior to that he served as director for the Monroe County Road Commission, which he told council faced significant financial and personnel challenges when he took over. Lange said he was able to resolve those issues.
Council Member Mike Bodary highlighted Lange’s experience in economic development as a valuable asset to the city and said he is pleased that Lange will bring a Rolodex of business contacts with him to the position.
“I liked the way (Lange) wants to approach our situation in getting ball rolling with development - he is very keen on development,” Bodary said
Steve Pepple | AnnArbor.com
He also was co-chair of the Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association and sees great potential in Depot Town.
“I’m really hoping to make something of that,” he said. “Redeveloping that rail depot in Depot Town is big.”
Lange acknowledged a tough budgetary picture but also said the city used “excessively conservative” estimates and the situation may not as bleak as thought. He questioned some of the assumptions about the pension system and inflation, for example, and said one of his first steps will be to examine the city’s assumptions and actuaries.
He said he has worked on projects that presented similar challenges to Water Street, and he wants to examine refinancing the bond debt over a longer period of time.
“It seems very compressed to me,” he said, adding that there is an enormous amount of details that must be examined and homework to be done on all the issues.
Lange said he isn’t certain the city will have to lay off seven firefighters, as has been proposed, and that is contingent on retirements. He said even if there are retirements, the city may still be able to save some of those positions.
Lange also said council made the right decision in asking voters to approve the income tax and Water Street and debt retirement millage.
“I like the attitude of the council and their approach,” he said. “They seem to respect the public employees and the work that’s done. They had the courage to ask voters for money rather than just going and cutting everybody and everything.”
But some programs might have to be cut, Lange said, like subsidized trash collection. He added that the city should seriously consider a special assessment district around its street lighting.
“It’s a whole huge package,” Lange said. “You don’t have to take everything out of one thing.”
Mayor Paul Schreiber said he felt Lange showed an “unsurpassed amount of experience” in development and management and appears to be a hard worker with a track record of accomplishing what needs to be accomplished in Ypsilanti.
“This isn’t the guy who is going to put a few years in and retire,” Schreiber said. "We can get a lot of mileage from him. I think he will be a strong city manager and tell you what he thinks. You may not agree with it, but he’ll be speaking from the perspective of having experience in a lot of other places."