LP preps for meeting with state finance officials

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK — City officials would prefer to provide their own answers to the looming deficit challenge, a shortfall that might require layoffs and service reductions to address.

Mayor Patricia Diaz Krause said city council members will have a chance to present a plan to state treasury officials next month after confirming last week a meeting for March 20.

On hand will be Ed Koryzno, administrator of the state office of fiscal responsibility, and a return visit from Roger Fraser, a deputy state treasurer for local government affairs.

There has been no indication of any state plans for taking more authoritative action, Diaz Krause said, nor implied outside management; the concept has been on local minds as Detroit and other southeast Michigan cities face the same possible scenario. However, state officials previously met with city financial managers and stressed that, if a balanced budget isn’t submitted by June 30, further involvement would be possible.

Diaz Krause said it doesn’t have to reach that point, and that prior to the March 20 meeting she hopes to have the start of a plan to erase a pending $500,000 deficit beginning July 1 en route to an estimated $3 million shortfall in 2014.

“They want to see some semblance of a plan,” Diaz Krause said. “My take is, they are definitely here to help us.”

In recent months city council has considered a variety of revenue-generating ideas to proposals for service cuts or reductions to ease the financial stress, but the bulk of the problem remains with personnel-related costs.

The city is limited in some cases, Diaz Krause said — the fire department has a no-layoff clause in their contract — but other unions have stepped forward and started discussions that might preserve payroll positions.

“I would rather see people work less days and take a cut in benefits than to see them laid off,” Diaz Krause said.