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Wednesday, December 2,2009

Kids in the Hall

An aggregator of Lansing government happenings

by Neal McNamara

After several weeks of threatening to do so, the administration of Mayor Virg Bernero delivered its deficit elimination plan to the City Council at Monday’s meeting. (Well, it wasn’t a threat, really, but a promise and a requirement under state law.)


Though the Bernero administration gave most of the information to the media last week, the proposal given to Council Monday night was slightly more detailed and puts on paper the administration’s plans to eliminate a $3 million deficit.


As a refresher: the deficit is a result of a $2 million loss in state revenue sharing, plus another $1 million in lower-than-expected-revenues from the Board of Water and Light equity
payments to the city (money shared with the city by BWL for
infrastructure investments the city made when the utility was just
coming online), and declines in property taxes, income taxes, and late
fees and penalty interest earned on those.


The Bernero administration has proposed to eliminate the deficit with a 10 percent cut to discretionary budgets and nine furlough days for
city workers. The city’s roughly 550 "non-essential" employees will all
take the same days off, with their offices closed. The remaining 550 or
so, which includes police, fire, trash removal, parking, and those who
operate the sewage treatment plant, are being asked to take "rolling" furlough days
meaning not all at once so their departments are never shut down. As of
Tuesday, however, the police and fire unions had not yet agreed to the
rolling furlough days. Finance Director Jerry Ambrose said that the furlough day talks with fire and other unions representing city workers had progressed further than with the Fraternal Order of Police.


But put forward Monday were two things that had not previously been discussed much: reducing capital projects expenditures so that the money could be transferred to the parks millage account to make up a $56,000 deficit at the Sycamore Driving Range. Another part of the plan would be to use $430,000 in drug forfeiture money to fund the Police Department’s special operations unit.


Some of the departments that will knock the largest chunks out of the deficit are the Finance Department, with $149,000 coming out of the furlough days; the Parks and Recreation operating fund, which will be reduced by $147,226; and, if agreed to, furloughs would reduce Fire Department personnel expenditures by $476,800, and the Police Department by $528,100.


It was discovered Monday night, during questioning of budget manager Angela Bennett by At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries, that elected officials will not be subject to furlough days because the Elected Officers Compensation Commission is
the only body with the jurisdiction to do that. Jeffries requested the
administration look into whether elected officials could contribute to
furlough days.


When asked if there were any city employees who would not be taking furlough days — specifically, members of the mayor’s cabinet — Ambrose said no. Cabinet members are salaried, Ambrose said, so their salaries will be reduced by the equivalent of nine days.


It was also revealed Monday that the city is looking at a plan that would spread the hours lost
to furlough days over a series of paychecks. So, for a city worker,
instead of receiving a post-furlough day paycheck with eight hours
taken out, the 72 hours of furlough days would be spread out over a
number of pay periods. Bennett reported to the Council that this plan
is still being worked out with various unions.


The deficit elimination plan will next be discussed at the Council Committee of the Whole on Thursday.





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