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Monday, March 18,2013

Here comes a budget

The mayor is scheduled to unveil his proposed fiscal year 2012 budget at tonight’s Lansing City Council meeting

by Andy Balaskovitz
Monday, March 28 — Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is scheduled to present his proposed fiscal year 2012 budget at tonight’s Lansing City Council meeting.

Finance Director Jerry Ambrose has said to expect an all-cuts budget to remedy a projected $20 million deficit. Ambrose has also said this is the first time the city will need to come up with a budget that is less than $100 million. This worst-case-scenario budget may propose closing up to three fire stations and laying off 120 police and fire employees. It reflects the possibilities of losing up to $6 million in state revenue sharing and if the nearly $9 million millage vote on May 3 is unsuccessful.

The Council has nearly two months to approve a budget for fiscal year 2012, which begins July 1. In that time, Lansing residents will vote on a proposed 4-mill property tax increase, which would raise $8.9 million. Of that, $8.5 million would be devoted to police, fire and road services, while the rest will go into Brownfield and TIFA funds.

Following Bernero’s budget presentation, the Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on park improvements, two show cause hearings for properties on the make safe or demolish list and vote on a Renaissance Zone application for the former Knapp’s building.

After tabling a resolution to approve the Renaissance Zone application for the former Knapp’s building two weeks ago, the Council is scheduled to vote tonight on the plan that would exempt the property owners from most state and local taxes for up to 15 years.

The Eyde Co., which owns the property, signed a development agreement with the city on Jan. 10 that specifies the Renaissance Zone application must be in before Thursday. If approved, the Council makes a recommendation to the Michigan Strategic Fund that the zone should be approved. The Eyde Co.’s proposed redevelopment of the former department store is estimated at $36.4 million.

The tax breaks are phased out in the final three years of the agreement and property owners are still responsible for property taxes levied for local bonds, school sinking funds and special assessments. However, they are exempt from local real and personal property taxes, school property taxes, local corporate income taxes, state personal income taxes and local income taxes.

The public hearing will consider the city’s decision to apply for a $600,000 grant from the state that would go toward improvements at Grand River Park in west Lansing between Martin Luther King Boulevard and Waverly Road. The Council must approve the application because, if granted, the city must match 25 percent of the funds given, or $150,000.

Lansing Parks Director Murdock Jemerson has said that more grants are being pursued for this project to pay for the matching funds. He has also said that no money from the parks millage fund will be used to match the grant funding.

A fishing pier and one mile of a non-motorized transportation trail within the park are the proposed improvements. The Council is scheduled to vote on the application tonight following the public hearing.

In other scheduled business, the two show cause hearings will allow property owners of 617 Bluff St. and 1542 N. High St. to make the case for why their addresses should be taken off the city’s make safe or demolish list.

The Bluff Street property, between Pine and Sycamore streets just north of Oakland Avenue, is worth $26,700, yet the estimated cost of repairs is nearly $59,000. Permits for building, electrical, mechanical and plumbing improvements have not been pulled.

The High Street property, just north of the Pennsylvania and Grand River avenues intersection in Old Town, is worth $28,900 yet the estimated cost of repairs exceeds $71,000. No permits have been pulled for improvements at this property as well.

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