Drastic changes to occur without milages’ passing

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – Deep cuts to personnel, public safety and city programs are necessary if voters don’t approve two milages in November, officials said Tuesday.

City Administrator John Zech and Carl Johnson of the city’s financial management firm Plante & Moran laid out their “Plan B,” for cuts necessary to overcome a $4.7 million deficit for the current fiscal year in a deficit elimination plan for the city’s general fund during its council meeting Tuesday.

Ten firefighter positions, 18 Police Department positions, ambulance services, the city’s community center and its recreation program would be among the cuts necessary for the city to stay afloat and avoid running out of money by early 2012, Johnson said.

Of the city’s $24.2 million budget, only $16.7 million comes from departments from which the city can legally cut, with $12.7 million of that representing salaries and benefits. The public safety departments represent the deepest cuts as they have the most full-time employees, Johnson said.

“If you’re actually looking at bodies of FTEs (full-time employees), outside of Police and Fire, there aren’t a whole heck of a lot,” he said.

Those cuts would slash the numbers of patrol officers per shift in the city to two from four and leave three employees in the detective bureau for a savings of $1.9 million from that department. Nearly $600,000 of those savings would go into paying unemployment benefits to those who were laid off.

Fire cuts would take the 25-member Fire Department down to 17 counting the chief and deputy chief, leaving the state minimum of four per shift. The department now has seven firefighters per shift. Ambulance services would be outsourced. The cuts in total would trim $1.5 million from the department’s $4.25 budget.

Both those figures still fall short of the $2 million necessary to trim from each department, Johnson said.

He estimated $1.3 million would need to be trimmed from all other departments. Cuts would include closing city hall on Fridays and making all full-time employees part-time on a 6.5-hour day without benefits.

Those cuts would fail to bring the city “close to where we need to be,” Johnson said, and would only net $583,000 which would not include unemployment benefits coming in at about $200,000.

That would cause consequences including the city’s failure to make $1.7 million in pension payments. He said that money would be set aside in the hopes they could be paid, “but if it comes February and we run out of money, that money will be used during the fiscal year and that’s what the projection is right now.”

The projections assume a public safety millage and debt service millage for the city’s 104-acre Southfield property do not pass. If one or both of the milages, which would together net about $4.6 million, do pass, the city would have other options, Zech said. Councilors are to discuss the proposed plan at a special council meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday and vote on it at their next council meeting, to provide adequate time for the 30-day layoff notices required under police and fire contracts.