Flint city leaders are discussing a city budget without a deficit. That’s a very big deal.
“For the first time, in a decade, the city of Flint, as of July 1, will be in a positive financial situation,” says Flint Emergency Manager Jerry Ambrose.
Ambrose delivered the proposed city budget to the city council Monday.
The five-year budget plan includes specific budgets for fiscal year 2016 and fiscal year 2017, as well as projections for FY2018, FY2019 and FY2020.
The plan projects balanced spending plans for the next two years. Further out, the picture is murkier.
Still, in the short term, the city does have flexibility to address some issues.
The budget calls for adding 10 part-time police officers, as part of partnership with Hurley Medical Center. A recent study found Flint was operating with far fewer police officers than it needs.
The city would also cancel a scheduled 6% water rate hike. Many Flint residents have been struggling to pay water bills that have doubled since the state-appointed emergency managers took over in 2011. The budget proposal also reduces a deposit fee for renters.
“We believe a reorganized effort, or a very modest change in the finances, would have a major impact on the city’s overall quality of life,” Flint Mayor Dayne Walling says of some of the priorities set in the budget.
Consolidations of the city’s 911 center and district court is saving the city money, and are also reducing the city’s workforce, from 523 in FY 2015 to 470 in FY 2017.
The city council will soon schedule public hearings on the budget.
“There’s going to be some disagreements,” says 3rd Ward city councilman Kerry Nelson, “but I don’t think there’s something we can not overcome.”
Since 2011, the final word on city spending and budgets has been the emergency manager’s. But who will have the final word is unclear.
Flint is still overseen by an emergency manager. But the mayor and city council have played a bigger role in crafting this budget.
No date has been set yet for Emergency Manager Jerry Ambrose's departure.
However, he is expected to make way for the appointment of a transition advisory board, which will work with the city council and mayor, before the end of the current fiscal year in June.
There is one major unresolved issue that could negatively affect the city’s bottom line.
Flint is still fighting a lawsuit by city retirees fighting reductions to their health care. If the city loses, it would cost Flint an additional $5 million a year.