City’s debt elimination plan due Friday

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — For now, the mayor called the city’s payroll “status quo,” although with the clock ticking to devise a way out of debt, possible remedies include, according to City Council Chair Cheryl Burke, “cuts everywhere.”

Taylor officials have until Friday to submit a plan to eliminate the city’s debt within five years; the current shortfall is estimated at $5 million.

“Everything’s on the table,” Burke said, and a planned study session yesterday (after press time) anticipated a final review before submitting a plan to state Treasury officials. Should city administrators fail to present a viable solution, the potential exists for Emergency Financial Management to assume authority.

Since receiving the state’s notification last month, city officials have practically been in non-stop meetings and bargaining sessions. Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand said that in addition to ongoing discussions with the International Association of Fire Fighters local union, the city hopes to consider possible shared services with Taylor Public Schools, although a meeting had yet to be scheduled.

The challenge is clear, even if the bottom-line figure is undetermined. Last month’s audit revealed a deficit of $1.7 million for the fiscal year that ended in June 2011; projections for the current shortfall run as high as $5 million, but Lamarand said the meter remains running.

“Every day we’re spending more money,” Lamarand said. “We’re borrowing against ourselves at this point in time.”

Through last week, no further staff decisions or cuts were made at city hall. Last month saw the termination of Department of Public Works Executive Director David Mackie, who was given a 30-day notice on Jan. 27, as well as the department’s administrative assistant position.

Still unresolved is the status of 15 firefighters laid off from the department in June 2011, and — in their absence — whether emergency medical services will continue to come from in-house or from a private company. Lamarand said Thursday that without an agreement in place with the union, no final decision can be made.

Leading up to Friday’s deadline for a plan to eliminate its debt, Lamarand said the city faces a near-immpossible challenge.

“What this city has built is an unsustainable and undesirable pension and retiree plan,” Lamarand said. “Unfortunately, there really aren’t ways for us to fix it.”

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)

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