Highlights of Mayor Shawn Keough’s State of the City Address

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By Doug Marrin

The State of the City of Dexter is strong, safe and again very vibrant in 2022. While our nation continues to face challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated variants, I am proud to say that our town, schools and community are open and operating at levels closer to those we remember prior to the pandemic.

Those are the opening remarks by Dexter Mayor Shawn Keough in his 2022 State of the City Address. The message was mailed out to residents in the city’s summer newsletter. The Mayor’s last State of the City Address was in March 2021.

For those of us who live in the surrounding area but identify with or have a vested interest in Dexter, and may not have received the report, here are some highlights. Direct quotes are in italics.

You can view the entire 13-page document on the city’s website at https://www.dextermi.gov/Community/Newsletter/Summer_2022_Newsletter_Final.pdf

Our town continues to thrive as a home for 4,500 people (based on 2020 census numbers). The Dexter Community Schools continue to offer educational excellence and a great opportunity for learning for all kids in the greater Dexter community. Our town is a popular destination, offering recreational trails and parks as safe visiting places for residents and visitors to use. Your City Council and staff are working hard every day to provide safe, secure public infrastructure and responsive public services.

Keough’s message is overwhelmingly upbeat and optimistic as he summarizes Dexter’s various initiatives and fiscal responsibilities. He reiterates a point he has often repeated at council meetings and elsewhere: "City Council has worked really well together and I am proud that we were able to accomplish many good things.”

Taxes

Most of the Mayor’s address concerns the city’s fiscal stewardship.

According to 2021-2022 fiscal year (ending June 30), the City again spent less than it took in. General Fund savings increased by $336K and debt was reduced by $945K. The Council used the City’s excellent bond rating to sell $2.5M in bonds to purchase new city offices.

Our top priorities for your tax dollars continue to be: 1) keeping our town safe, 2) continuously maintaining and upgrading our public infrastructure, 3) making sure our downtown, parks and streets are clean, safe and open to our residents and visitors and 4) maintaining fiscal responsibility.

The Mayor explains the budget process and how the council uses it as a guiding document in decision-making. Dexter’s budget can be found on the City’s website at (https://dextermi.gov/government/departments_and_services/budgets_and_audits.php)

City taxes have remained the same for three consecutive fiscal years. These taxes comprise the General Operating Fund (10.8987 mills) and City Street Fund (4.4075 mills).

Dexter has the lowest tax rates of any city in Washtenaw County.

Below is a summary of how the city’s General Operating Fund (10.8987 mills) is spent.

We are in a healthy financial position to continue funding the same essential services that our citizens expect and want.

Street Millage

The cost of building and maintaining just about anything to do with the streets comes from a combination of the City Street Fund (4.4075 mills) and state funds. Keough lists significant road projects in the Dexter Crossing subdivision, on Second St., and Third St. (still in progress and partially paid for with federal funds).

I would like to thank all the residents who have been patient during these much-needed construction projects and for residents that have brought attention to local roads, alleys and sidewalk conditions that are in need of upkeep.

Parks/Trails

Residents know the B2B Trail has become a popular destination for many. Keough gives some surprising numbers regarding its use.

In 2021, the trail from Central Street to Dexter-Huron had a count of 131,577 pedestrian and cyclist trips while the trail from downtown Dexter to Hudson Mills counted 289,236 pedestrian and cyclist trips. Counts taken in 2022 showed an average of 1,068 users per day.

Dexter's B2B Trailhead made the cover of the 2022 Michigan Trails Magazine

Water and Sewer

The Mayor explains that Dexter’s water and sewer funds are paid by user rates, not taxes. The council determines the rates each year, and the funds are managed to be self-sustaining. The city has seven full-time staff assigned to operate the water and sewer systems.

Facilities

Keough noted the new offices at 3515 Broad Street are being updated, and work is expected to be completed later this fall. He also reiterates the city’s need to improve its firefighting facility.

It will come as no surprise to any City resident that we still need to find an appropriate upgrade to our current fire station. Our level of service and response to fire and rescue emergencies remains very high. Our firefighters and rescue vehicles respond daily from our current station, but the physical station itself does not represent the modern living, working and resting conditions that our fire fighters need and deserve.

Dexter's current fire station was built in the 1950s

In May 2022, City Council asked for updated cost estimates from our architect. These recent estimates have shown that it may cost almost as much to renovate the current station as it is to build a new one. This is a change from past comparisons that showed a lesser cost for renovation vs. building a new station. Supply chain and inflation have certainly affected the cost of this future project and City Council needs to determine how big the new station needs to be.

The council has put a proposal on the city’s ballot this November asking residents to approve a two-mill tax estimated to generate more than $8 million for new construction and/or renovation for its fire/sheriff station.

See the article on the STN website: Dexter Submits Ballot Proposal for New Fire Station

Closing

In closing, the State of the City of Dexter is strong, and our town continues to be safe. The City of Dexter continues to operate in a solid financial position, but there is so much more to our story. Dexter continues to be a wonderful destination full of opportunity, knowledge, recreation and fun. Our local economy is diverse, and I am thankful for all the local business owners that invest each day in our community. Dexter’s small-town charm and friendly people are symbolic of the spirit of this community. We are lucky to live in a community that cares about each other. For many years, I have concluded my State of City with the phrase, “Dexter is a unique place where friends become part of your family.”

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