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Thursday, May 23,2013

Bernero vetoes Council budget

Will ask Board of Water and Light for higher return on equity to pay for streetlights, increase water rates for hydrants

by Andy Balaskovitz
Mayor Virg Bernero signs a notice of veto for next fiscal year\'s budget. Andy Balaskovitz/City Pulse

Updated at 5:10 p.m.

Thursday, May 23 — Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero has vetoed all of the City Council’s budget amendments, reinstating expenditures for information technology and several other General Fund line items to balance the city’s budget that starts July 1.

As for the lingering $5 million question at hand — how will the city pay for streetlights and fire hydrants? — Bernero proposes asking for a higher return on equity payment from the Lansing Board of Water and Light to pay for streetlights and an 8 percent water rate increase for customers to pay for fire hydrants.

Fire hydrants and streetlights have traditionally been paid for out of the city’s General Fund.

“The Council and mayor are in relative agreement: We need a new way to fund it,” Bernero said today before he formally signed a notice of veto. “For seven years I avoided going back to taxpayers. I can no longer do it.”

Bernero’s $112 million budget removes costs for streetlights and fire hydrants. His proposal is contingent on the BWL Board of Commissioners’ approval of the water rate and 1.1 percent return on equity, an annual payment in lieu of taxes. Bernero said today he feels “pretty good” BWL will go along with the plan.

The City Council proposed covering those costs through an increased return on equity payment, which had yet to be determined. By a 5-3 vote Monday, with Council members Kathie Dunbar, Tina Houghton and Jessica Yorko objecting, the Council eliminated several other expenditures proposed by Bernero, including a cold-case investigator ($100,000), form-based codes planning ($70,000), salaries for Sister Cities and faith-based initiatives ($43,000) and borrowing to pay for roads instead of doing so out of the General Fund ($1.3 million), to name a few. Here’s more on what the Council approved Monday.

With his veto, Bernero reinstates $100,000 for funding a new, full-time cold-case detective; $70,000 for moving to a form-based codes planning system; $43,000 for salaries in the Sister Cities and Office of Faith-Based Initiatives programs; $1.3 million for road and sidewalk repairs (the Council proposed bonding for those costs); the full $1.4 million it would cost to cover a deficit in the city’s Tax Increment Financing Authority and eliminating a loan program in which the TIFA would repay the city; fully funding a new cabinet-level IT director; and General Fund contributions to the city’s Fleet Fund for vehicles and equipment.

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