Thursday, May 24, 2012

Three Detroit City Council Opponents of FSA Vote Against Austerity Budget in 6-3 Decision

May 24, 2012

Detroit City Council approves budget, restores some departments

By DARREN NICHOLS / The Detroit News

Detroit - The City Council today approved the city's 2012-13 budget, keeping much of Mayor Dave Bing's proposed $250 million in cuts intact but restoring some departments slated for elimination.

Council passed the $1.1 billion budget by a 6-3 vote this afternoon. Council members JoAnn Watson, Kwame Kenyatta and Brenda Jones voted against the measure, saying the budget is based primarily on the consent agreement between the city and the state, which they oppose. The city's corporation counsel has issued an opinion that the consent agreement is legally "null and void."

"We did the fiscally responsible thing, (but) it's tough," councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins said. "It means a lot of people are going to lose their jobs (and) a lot of city services are going to be cut back. We have to make these tough decisions now to get to a better place in the future."

"They were pretty tough," she said. "This is the kind of progress we need to make, but we'll need to make this kind of progress for multiple years in order to resolve the long-term issues."

The budget represents the start of Detroit's restructuring efforts in the wake of the consent agreement approved in April. Rough cash projections over three years indicate the city could end 2015 with a surplus of $240 million, ending years of deficits. The city's accumulated deficit is more than $200 million.

In April, Bing proposed a budget that sought $250 million in cuts across all departments and the elimination of 2,566 jobs. The proposal is now on his desk for approval.

The council's changes included:

Restoring the Law Department budget to $15.5 million. Bing had proposed a cut of $8.6 million.

Maintaining the Human Rights Department, which cannot be eliminated under the city charter.

Providing enough funding through the General Services Department to maintain comfort stations at Belle Isle.

The council also wants to use block grant funding for city-wide grass cutting.

Restoring $2.3 million to the Department of Elections. The Bing administration recommended a budget of slightly more than $5 million for the department. Adding the money brings it to about the same level as in the current fiscal year.

Providing six months' worth of funding for the city airport and the Health and Wellness Promotion Department. The Health Department would get about $4.9 million of its $6 million budget while a proposed management institute is created to run it.

"I applaud the mayor for cutting $250 million out of the budget. I had been pushing it for two years," Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown said. "He and his staff should be applauded for giving us a budget that matches revenue. I may not be as happy as where the cuts came from, but we made the adjustments necessary and the important thing now is to hold the administration's feet to the fire to restructure and reorganize."

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