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Monday, March 18,2013

Kids in the Hall

The Lansing City Council makes no changes to the mayor’s budget proposal

by Andy Balaskovitz
Tuesday, May 17 — Lansing City Council voted Monday 5-3 Monday to approve Mayor Virg Bernero’s budget proposal largely as he had laid it out March after amending it to allow for restoring up to 61 positions that are scheduled to be cut.

Council members Kathie Dunbar, Tina Houghton, Derrick Quinney, A’Lynne Robinson and Jessica Yorko supported the administration’s budget.  The three opponents, Eric Hewitt, Brian Jeffries and Carol Wood put forth amendments, but those were voted down by the majority.

Before the meeting, the administration amended its budget recommendation to include $4.5 million in state revenue sharing that it says is likely to be received and nearly $2.5 million in additional healthcare costs. The administration also budgeted for $3.3 million in anticipated employee concessions that allowed for $5.3 million to be spent on restoring 61 jobs, 50 of which would be in police and fire.

Dunbar made the motion for the amendment, which passed 5-3 with Hewitt, Jeffries and Wood opposing.

Before passage, Jeffries proposed to “un-tie bar” anticipated employee concessions with revenue sharing dollars so that money would be made available and wouldn’t be tied to bringing certain jobs back.

“I understand and appreciate the approach here. Part of the problem I’m having is if we’re looking particularly at public safety issues — what if we close down a fire house and find ourselves in a position where we get back people and (need to) open a house back up? I’d like to make money available immediately,” he said.

Bernero said linking the two “allows us to work in good faith at the bargaining table” by giving unions an idea of how many positions the city is looking to restore.

Robinson agreed with Bernero: “When we move beyond this amendment, our goal is to tell administration how many positions to save during the negotiating process.”

Jeffries’ amendment failed 4-4, with Dunbar, Houghton, Robinson and Yorko opposing.

The administration also recommended using $63,000 from the drug forfeiture fund to keep an administrative staffing job within the Police Department. Dunbar moved that amendment, which passed unanimously.

Jeffries then addressed $5.3 million in cost-saving proposals that he, Wood and Hewitt authored last week. “It was all based on the fact that the millage failed,” he said. “A second part is that these are more long-term potential solutions.”

Some of the proposals included annexing the Capitol Regional International Airport into the city so the city can collect tax revenue from it and selling off city property to go into the General Fund.

Jeffries made a motion to move $2 million out of the budget stabilization fund to “offset losses in police, fire and code enforcement officers” that would be replenished by the potential sale of Oliver Towers downtown or the Washington Avenue Armory just south of REO Town.

Jeffries’ motion failed 4-4, with Dunbar, Houghton, Robinson and Yorko opposing.

After Wood defended the proposals, Bernero jumped in to defend the administration’s belief that they were “gum drops, lollipops and pipe dreams,” as Bernero’s deputy chief of staffm Randy Hannan, told City Pulse last week.

“I stand by everything I’ve said and my assistant said in terms of gum drops and lollipops,” Bernero said. “There are some ideas in there we’re going to work toward, but a lot of them were just notions that would take as much time and money to explore as they would save. We need to pass a balanced budget here tonight.”

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