Budget approved with deep cuts, layoffs

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – The wheels are in motion for deep cuts to city staff and services.

City council members Tuesday adopted an amended budget that combats its $4.7 million deficit by slashing the Police Department budget by 43 percent, with a loss of 18 positions, the Fire Department budget by 28 percent with a loss of 10 positions, and all other departments by 27 percent.

The cuts, which would begin to take effect Dec. 31, include closing the community center and eliminating most Recreation Department functions, and layoffs that would reduce the police force from four to two officers per shift, and cut the fire department from seven to the state minimum of four per shift.

All other departments face cuts in the amended budget, with nine full-time employees cut to 26 hours per week, and six positions eliminated, some beginning as soon as Nov. 1.

City Administrator John Zech said some of the positions could be recalled if one or both of two millages – one for public safety and one for the 104-acre former studio property – pass in the November general election. The millages would together net $4.6 million.

“Hopefully, all of this can be rethought by the city council in November if the two proposals pass,” Zech said.

The budget was adopted Tuesday to give the city time to administer 30-day notices required by union employees and refund gym memberships, ice time, and other money prepaid by community center customers, Zech said.

He also said the move was aimed to “keep the city council in control and prevent an emergency financial manager from coming in.” Under the law, which passed in Michigan earlier this year, emergency financial managers can dismiss city governments and negate contracts.

The budget passed 5 -2 with councilors James Flynn and Beverly Kelley dissenting.

Flynn said accepting the motion was “kicking the can down the road,” and that budget cuts should have been made sooner to avoid the rash of layoffs.

Councilman Frank Tucci disagreed, saying the council did what they had to do with the numbers presented to them by their financial management firm, Plante & Moran, and that no councilors sought to revise the amendment.

“I didn’t see any amendment to the proposal,” Tucci said. “I didn’t see anyone come up here and say ‘No, I want the layoffs to come Nov. 1.’ I didn’t hear that from anyone.”

The second of two town hall meetings to discuss the proposed milages is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.