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Monday, March 24,2014

Kids in the Hall

Mayor Bernero proposes bolstering reserves with surplus in next year’s budget. ‘We have finally emerged from the financial devastation of the Great Recession.’

by Andy Balaskovitz
Monday, March 24 — For the first time in nine years, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero has proposed a balanced budget to the Lansing City Council that anticipates a $500,000 surplus to bolster the city’s sagging reserves.

In his annual presentation to the Council for a spending plan starting July 1, Bernero’s General Fund budget increases by 2.5 percent to $118.5 million. He said increases in property and income tax revenues are contributing to the increase.

“At long last we have moved beyond relentless deficits of the Great Recession to achieve short-term stability,” Bernero said during his presentation tonight.

While the city ended last fiscal year with $5.8 million in reserves, or 5.2 percent of expenditures, the city still has a ways to go to get back to peak levels in 2003 when they were at $13 million. The mayor ultimately wants to bring reserve levels back up to 12 percent to 15 percent of expenditures.

An additional $700,000 is planned to be added to reserves at the end of this fiscal year from General Fund savings for refinancing debt on the city’s Tax Increment Financing Authority.

Bernero also emphasized a commitment to public safety, including planning to spend $436,000 from the General Fund to keep 11 police officer positions that till now have been grant-funded. He also plans on investing in new police cars and an ambulance.

Bernero’s budget includes the hiring of two full-time employees and one contractual social media manager. One full-time employee would be for the City Attorney’s Office to reduce the need for outside counsel, while the other is in the Department of Human Relations and Community Services.

While the short-term outlook is positive for the city, Bernero said there needs to be a continued focus on pre-funding retiree health care and pensions.

“The long-term challenges are as daunting as ever,” he said.

As he reconvenes the Financial Health Team, led by former Mayor David Hollister, Bernero said one area of focus will be inventorying city-owned property for possible sale.

The Council has until May 26 to adopt a budget.

Click here to see the full proposed budget book.
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