LP budget, city manager approved

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK — In recent years, optimism was difficult to find in many Downriver communities when city governments prepared annual budgets. The trend seemed impossible to reverse — declining revenues, increased costs and difficult decisions.

Mayor Patricia Diaz Krause can’t claim hopes for a reversal of that economic pendulum any time soon, but did call the situation “stable” as the city council approved last week its 2012-13 municipal budget.

For openers, in spite of a decrease in projected general fund revenues of just over $1 million, Diaz Krause said that the budget and five-year forecast did not result in staff cuts or service reductions. As the city continues to look at ways to trim expenses, employees are not in the cross hairs.

“None of it is getting rid of people,” Diaz Krause said. “No reduction in services.”

Instead, Diaz Krause and newly-appointed city manager Gregory Capote will begin a thorough review of city expenses and books.

“He’ll be going through it with a fine-tooth comb,” Diaz Krause said.

Capote, most recently with the Wayne County economic development office, was formally appointed Monday to the slot last held by Steve Duchane, who left in October 2011.

After a prolonged search by an outside agency and failed negotiations with a previous candidate, Capote was offered the $82,500 position last month. Capote accepted at Monday’s meeting and was on the job last week.

Diaz Krause said that Capote’s business-savvy background may provide the final piece needed to go from “stable” to “improving” at budget time.

“We want to bring more businesses in and he feels very strongly about that,” Diaz Krause said.

Capote was unavailable for comment prior to press time.

There are reasons for cautious optimism, as Diaz Krause said that in addition to no staff changes the city will not have to borrow as much as in recent years in order to balance the books.

However, the proposed budget submitted by Interim City Manager Lisa Griggs advised that the city faces “the most challenging of times ahead in the next one to three years.”

Taxable values in the city have again declined, lowering revenue; personal property taxes will no longer benefit the city; and Michigan law limits how much local communities can capture revenue.

“The picture is bleak,” Griggs called the “snapshot of where we will be in the coming years.”