Politics & Government
2:57 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Benton Harbor emergency manager asks state for loan; city commissioners reject the plan

Elected leaders in Benton Harbor are rejecting the emergency manager’s plan to take on debt to pay down the city’s deficit.

Benton Harbor has been under state control for three years. It's cut its deficit by a third; from $3.4 million in 2010 to $1.2 million, according to the latest audit.

Now, Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Tony Saunders wants a $2.3 million loan to pay off the remaining deficit. That's the first step to proving Benton Harbor isn’t in a financial emergency anymore.

The majority of commissioners don't want to borrow more money from Michigan. A majority voted to deny Saunders' request Monday night.

They say the city’s fiscal emergency is not over and the city needs to find more revenue. Voters rejected an income tax proposal earlier this month. Saunders believes some commissioners think the loan will actually add to the deficit. He says that's not the case. In fact, he says, without the loan, it would take about three years to resolve the financial crisis.

“I have a great relationship with the commission so maybe they want me to stay longer than I planned on staying. But without eliminating the deficit, you’re going to have an emergency manager,” Saunders said.

“The commission decided to let their voice be heard and I kind of respect that and the process but I’m just focused on you know getting the job done in the best way that I see,” Saunders said.

Saunders asked a state panel for the loan anyway. There is no deadline for the emergency loan board to make a decision.