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Monday, March 25,2013

Bernero's budget

With deficit $4 million less than expected, cost-shifting to residents and businesses to pay for fire hydrants and streetlights

by Andy Balaskovitz
Monday, March 25 — Lansing’s projected budget deficit for the coming fiscal year has shrunk to $5 million, which is $4 million less than anticipated, the Bernero administration announced today.

Mayor Virg Bernero wants to shift the cost for fire hydrants and streetlights from the city to Board of Water and Light customers to pay for it. Doing so would free up roughly $5.5 million annually, Bernero said.

“I gotta get this out of my budget,” Bernero said today. “Now we’ve got room to make investments.”

Under Bernero’s budget recommendation presented to the City Council tonight, residential customers would pay about $45 a year and commercial customers $1,394 a year for the services. Bernero’s Financial Health Team recommended the move in its final report issued a week ago.

Bernero said the decreased deficit for the 2014 fiscal year results from more-than-expected property tax revenues and savings in health care expenditures. The fiscal year begins July 1. At one point, the administration had projected an $11 million deficit.

“The numbers came in late and good,” Bernero said.

The mayor’s budget recommendation, which is subject to Council approval in May, does not include layoffs or furlough days. Bernero is also calling for $1.5 million from the General Fund for roads and sidewalks, which is on top of $1.8 million expected from a voter-approved millage in 2011.

Bernero is also recommending investments in public safety. Based on a March 18 City Pulse report on the Lansing Police Department’s lack of organization when handling unsolved homicides, Bernero said he wants to spend $100,000 a year on a detective dedicated to cold cases. He also wants to purchase two new fire engines.
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