In June of 2012 Councilman Tom Berry wrote an opinion in the Press and Guide I think it’s worth a closer look at his comments. At the time Councilman Berry wrote;
“The budget is heavily dependent upon revenues generated from tickets written by police, early retirements and a four-day work week.”
“According to a study conducted by Plante Moran in February, it reveals our police force is staffed with 20 percent more employees than other cities with similar populations. It also suggests if the city went into receivership, the police department would be the first place where cuts would be made. Reducing the department by 12 officers is a savings of more than $850,000, with no loss of the essential service.”
What did the administration do? Cut the animal control officer has there been any other cut to this department?
“Unfortunately, rather than making those cuts we have increased overtime hoping it will entice police to write more tickets. Although there are violators, there is a gray-line, and preying upon those on that line is wrong. The real savings, and tough decisions, are not being made.”
While the administration did try to give the police department more over-time Council reduced this during budget discussions.
“Our Parks and Recreation Director is considering a position with another city; that being said we should eliminate the position from the budget. This would save an additional $120,000 and place us in a position to join a regional recreation department/director. This regional approach will come sooner than later based on the legislature’s and Gov. Rick Synder’s intended actions.”
The Parks and Recreation Director did not leave for another city he took the retirement package extended to all department heads the same package that was given to the DPW supervisors a union negotiated contract. This offer has department heads working for the city for an additional three years at full salary while collecting their pensions. There’s nothing in the letter of understanding that states they have to leave after the 3 year period of time. While not every department head qualified for this those who did took the offer and with good reason between pension and salary some are pulling in over 100,000.00 a year. Before this letter of understanding Department heads did not get to roll in their unused vacation time, sick time, or personal days into their pensions (The source for that information is a City council member.) Under the letter of understanding with the DPW supervisors extended to ‘department heads’ they now get to do this.
When talking with Council members at the time, the reason for the letter of understanding with the DPW supervisors was to keep senior staff to train the others. One example given to me was the use of ‘heavy equipment’ sounds very logical and responsible yes, but what could the recreation department head have to train the deputy department head she’s been working for the city for 20+ years.
Many of you might remember all the talk surrounding the Eton Center the Mayor and Council stating at the time that they would have to close down the Eton Center. At that time the roof needed repair and the City was going to have to pay for it. If you remember I did say this would never happen I said the Mayor was using scare tactics to get the senior vote on the HO. It worked, HO passed Eton was never closed down the roof never fixed the recreation department in the end did make cuts to their budget, but nothing close to what Councilman Berry was talking about in the Press and Guide.
“The frustration builds with the $5.5 million Budget Deficit Reduction Proposal we submitted to the state. Yes, the state finally approved the fourth proposal, but they approved it because the numbers ‘appear’ to be logical.”
“Unfortunately, the proposal is loaded with variables. It’s the equivalent of an unfunded building project doomed to fail, because actual dollars for the project are not there. The proposal will never be realized because it’s heavily dependent on ticket revenue.”
In June 2012 Councilman Berry wrote this statement and these words are so true he wasn’t the only Council member to say this at the time and even now. Almost every member on the City Council has said that the deficit reduction plan isn’t doable. “Fantasy Plan” is the name most often used when referring to the deficit reduction plan submitted to the state. From everything I’ve been told the administration is not even close to reaching the goals set out in the plan it submitted to the state. The question here is what happens when it doesn’t reach those goals? When the numbers don’t come through what will the administration do then? What will they cut?
Councilman Berry went on to say this,
“My suggestions save the city $970,000 a year. Over five years it amounts to $4.85 million, without the uncertainty of ticket revenue. That would eliminate our deficit and balance the budget.”