Local officials: Don’t count on gov’s budget

By J. PATRICK PEPPER
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Local officials recently breathed a collective sigh of relief when Gov. Jennifer Granholm unveiled her proposed budget for fiscal 2011 year.

That’s because conspicuously absent from the long lists of funding cuts outlined in the proposal were revenue sharing funds for local governments and public school funding. Both categories took massive hits in last year’s budget meltdown that saw state legislators working well past the Oct. 1 deadline to try to pass a balanced spending package.

Dearborn Public Schools Supt. Brian Whiston said he was encouraged that there were no cuts listed to K-12 funding after having to eliminate nearly 300 positions – and about $20 million in expenditures – last year.

“It’s a heck of a lot better place to start (than last year),” he said.

Similarly, Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. was happy that at least tentatively, he wouldn’t have to contemplate more spending cuts arising from less revenue sharing money. Last year the city lost more than $700,000 in revenue sharing.

“I appreciate the effort (Granholm) is making, and I’m thrilled that right now it doesn’t look like we will be losing any more money,” he said.

But neither man is holding his breath when it comes to the budget that actually comes out of Lansing. The proposal still has to work its way through the machinations of the Legislature, and nearly $1.2 billion of Granholm’s proposal relies on comprehensive pension reforms for state employees and extending the sales tax to many services.

This could be a tall task given the current discord in the bicameral body. The Legislature currently is in a historic holding pattern right now, with neither the House nor Senate able to get approval from the counterpart body for passed bills.

“I think (Granholm’s budget) has a long way to go before passage, because people who feel they’re being hurt by the proposed changes are going to cause some problems,” O’Reilly said.

The uncertainty has Whiston hoping for the best, but planning for the worst.

“We’re preparing for a $268 (per pupil) funding cut, because doing this midyear is just treacherous on our employees our students and our parents,” Whiston said. “I would rather have a plan in place. If we get bad news, then we are prepared. If we get good news, then great, we’ll make adjustments.”

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