Residents budget committee at work

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE — A citizens advisory committee is working to solve budgetary problems in the city.

Mayor Joseph Peterson announced Monday that the 12-member Citizens Budget Advisory Committee already had met twice to discuss cuts to city services required by an expected city budget deficit of $1.8 million in 2012.

Peterson proposed the committee a month ago as a way for residents to have a voice in the budgetary process and to help select which services will get the deepest cuts. The committee comprises residents who will volunteer their time. Interested residents submitted applications and 12 were chosen based on their qualifications, Peterson said.

Committee members are Michael Beaubien, Corki Benson, Brandon Crupi, Richard Custer, Rose Darin, Eron Feltz, Stephanie Jasinski, Ferd Keller, Steve Semetko, Anna Hardy-Smith, Tom Walker and Milt Zavsza.

The group met May 4 and Monday in the training room of the Wyandotte Police Department and will meet there at 5 p.m. every Monday. The meetings are open to the public and will be broadcast on local-access cable television.

Department heads will submit their budgets to the committee by June 15 for review; members’ report will be due to the City Council by June 30. City budget meetings then will be scheduled in July, August and September. The new fiscal year is to begin Oct. 1.

At a presentation of the city’s audit by Plante & Moran in April, the firm said that despite the faltering economy, Wyandotte was able to add $10,000 to its general fund over fiscal 2010, when other area cities were looking at general fund deficits.

The city did so by freezing wages for nonunion employees, switching from a defined-benefit pension plan to a defined-contribution pension plan, cutting nearly 40 employees and dropping its fully funded health insurance plan in favor of a plan where employees pay 20 percent.

At that presentation, Peterson warned that the city already had picked the “low-hanging fruit,” and that the only possible next move was cutting services.