Economy forces Sterling Heights to tighten its belt
BY ALANA HARTLEY
OU News Bureau
“Quaint” is one word used by Sterling Heights residents to describe their city.
This city, which is home to 130,000 residents, was ranked by Best Life and Money magazines as one of the 100 best cities to call home and raise a family. FBI statistics showed it as Michigan’s safest city among communities with more than 100,000 residents in 2010.
More than 3,500 commercial and industrial businesses are in Sterling Heights, including a Ford production facility, Lakeside Mall and publishing plants for the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press.
Adam Sobh, who was born and raised in Sterling Heights and still calls the city home, says that this town is perfect for people looking to raise a family. Sobh says his favorite thing to do in Sterling Heights is catch a movie at a local theater.
Candice Szlaga, an Oakland University student, describes Sterling Heights as “a suburban city that has a variety of age groups and things to do.”
Szlaga, who has lived in Sterling Heights for eight years, says her favorite place to visit is the used bookstore at the public library.
Sobh and Szlaga both enjoy living in Sterling Heights but say their main complaint about the city is the traffic and road conditions.
“We complain to the city, but they don’t really do as much as they should,” Sobh said.
Mayor Pro Tem Michael C. Taylor said the city’s main concern now is dealing with a reduction in the city’s work force.
Declining property taxes and falling revenue have forced the city to make budget cuts. The city’s source of money is completely dependent on the housing market, Taylor said, and the housing market is declining.
The current city budget is $135.3 million despite tax revenues falling to their lowest levels in six years.
The city’s budget decreased by $7.1 million due to “numerous cost-saving measures,” according to the document. In the budget, the city reported reducing its staff by 106 full-time positions or 16.3 percent of its work force since 2002.
The city has a 6.9 percent unemployment rate, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Taylor described Sterling Heights as “relatively strong and vibrant despite the gloom” of the current national economy.
The departments of police, fire, and public works are in good shape compared to other communities, according to Taylor. The City Council wants to prevent having to let go of workers from these departments, and the council has had to be creative in maintaining the city by shifting money around in the budget.
Sterling Heights, which Taylor described as a “blue collar town,” is home to many autoworkers.
Because of the recent struggles in the auto industry in metro Detroit, many autoworkers have lost their jobs, thus leaving Sterling Heights with many unemployed workers. This, too, puts a financial strain on the city.
One solution he offered was an effort to attract more young people. Census figures show more than half the city’s population is older than 35.
- For a slide show on Sterling Heights, CLICK HERE.
“We need to show that the housing here is desirable, affordable and that there is a lot of it,” Taylor said.
The hope is that through parks and recreation programs and more businesses that cater to young people, these new residents would be attracted to Sterling Heights and would want to settle down in the city.
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