emergency manager

Politics
7:33 am
Tue September 20, 2011

Flint getting more in-depth review of finances

Sean Marshell Flickr

Flint's finances are getting a more in-depth review by the state after what's described as probable financial stress was found in its finances.

The Flint Journal reports that the state treasury office told Mayor Dayne Walling last week about the finding. A panel is expected to report to Gov. Rick Snyder within about two months whether there's a financial emergency in Flint.

In August, Michigan officials ordered a preliminary review of Flint's finances, the first involving a Michigan city since the state revised its emergency manager law early this year. The process could lead to the state appointing an emergency manager.

Walling says he believes the appointment of an emergency manager can be avoided.

Michigan has emergency managers in place in the Detroit public school system and three cities.

Politics
5:21 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Justice's recusal sought in emergency manager case

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman
Michigan Supreme Court

A group that’s filed a legal challenge to Michigan’s emergency manager law wants one of the state Supreme Court justices to recuse himself from the case.

Attorneys for the Sugar Law Center say Justice Stephen Markman has a conflict of interest that should keep him from deciding the emergency manager case.

At issue is Markman’s wife. She’s a lawyer for the state Attorney General’s office. And she’s helping to defend the same law against a legal challenge in a separate, federal case.

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Education
4:31 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Highland Park schools closer to emergency manager

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The school system in Highland Park is getting closer to the possible appointment of an emergency manager because of its troubled finances.

Michigan schools Superintendent Mike Flanagan sent a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder this month saying "probable financial stress exists" in the Detroit-area school district. The letter says a recently revised state law requires that the governor appoint a review team to dig deeper into the district's finances.

The letter summarizing a preliminary financial review of the 1,300-student district was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. The letter cites "unsatisfactory progress" in eliminating budget deficits and audit problems.

A message was left Tuesday seeking comment from School District of the City of Highland Park officials.

The district still could avoid the appointment of an emergency manager.

Politics
2:32 pm
Thu August 18, 2011

Pontiac emergency manager wants to raise taxes and cut services

Downtown Pontiac, Michigan. The city is at a crossroads as a state-appointed emergency manager tries to keep the city from running out of money.
Dave Garvin Flickr

How to get by with less is an issue all levels of government are facing.

The emergency manager in Pontiac, Michael Stampfler, is proposing a combination of tax hikes and service cuts to cure the city's budgetary ills as reported in the Oakland Press:

Stampfler took to the microphone this morning for an informational meeting about the updated financial plan that could mean property taxes being raised between 6 and 8 mills.

He requested the public and elected officials submit ideas in writing if they have alternatives to what is proposed.

Stampfler released an update of his financial plan, adding $15.05 million to the budget with a combination of cuts and possible tax hikes.

An 8 mill property tax increase would mean that a property owner whose house is assessed at $50,000 would pay $400 more a year in taxes.

This past spring, the assessed value of homes in Pontiac dropped by an average of 21.4 percent, resulting in $2.6 million in lost annual revenues for the city.

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Politics
12:41 pm
Thu August 18, 2011

Snyder asks Michigan Supreme Court to rule on emergency manager law

The Governor has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the state's emergency manager law.
Michigan Supreme Court

Update 12:41 p.m.

The request from Governor Snyder came last Friday.

The Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice, the group filing the lawsuit against the state's emergency manager law, posted the request from the Governor today.

In the request, Governor Snyder says without bypassing the other courts "this lawsuit may take years to reach finality.":

I recognize the significance of seeking a bypass to this court as provided by MCR 7.305, and only request this court's involvement after careful consideration of the urgency and importance of the issues presented here.

Snyder says the severe financial difficulties facing local governments and school districts require that the questions of constitutionality be resolved quickly.

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Politics
7:44 pm
Fri August 5, 2011

Detroit school unions take aim at imposed pay cuts, emergency manager law

Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

An attorney suing the state over its emergency manager law is welcoming a lawsuit filed this week by Detroit Public Schools unions.

The three unions' lawsuit claims emergency manager Roy Roberts violated the district employees’ constitutional rights by imposing a 10% wage cut.

The imposed wage cut is the first instance of an emergency manager using the law’s new powers to seriously alter a union contract.

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Lawsuit
6:25 am
Fri August 5, 2011

Detroit school unions sue over pay cut

Three unions representing about 10,000 Detroit Public Schools employees have sued over a 10 percent pay cut and 20 percent contribution to health insurance imposed by the district.

Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson tells The Detroit News the cuts are "an unprecedented power grab." Secretary's union President Ruby Newbold tells the Detroit Free Press employees will fight them any way they can.

The federal court suit seeks an injunction to block the changes, which were made under new state legislation expanding emergency financial managers' power.

The suit is against emergency financial manager Roy Roberts and state Treasurer Andy Dillon, who approved the cuts.

Roberts declines comment on the suit but says he's encouraged by the "overall attitude of the unions" in showing willingness to work with him.

Politics
12:01 am
Thu June 30, 2011

Benton Harbor Emergency Manager says city has “turned the corner”

Benton Harbor's Emergency Manager Joe Harris (left) speaks with residents one-on-one following the public hearing on his budget Wednesday night.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor’s Emergency Manager says the city will be able to break even this budget year. Last year the city ran more than a million dollar deficit.

Emergency Manger Joe Harris says this year the city could run a $400,000 surplus.

“We’ve turned the corner. You don’t have to keep cutting if you have positive cash flow. Now we just need to expend or invest our money wisely.”

Most of those attending seemed relieved at the news. But following years of mismanagement, many residents remain skeptical.

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Education
3:15 pm
Wed June 29, 2011

Lansing teachers agree to layoffs, benefits cuts and a pay freeze

Jack Amick Flickr

Lansing teachers have approved a new one year contract that includes benefits cuts and layoffs.  Under the deal approved by Lansing teachers, the district will eliminate up to 95 positions.   The one year agreement also freezes wages, while increasing employee contributions to their health care plans.

The contract concessions are tied to the Lansing School District’s need to reduce a projected $18 million dollar budget gap.   The school board is expected to vote on the district’s budget for the next fiscal year this evening.

Patti Seidl is the president of the Lansing Schools Education Association.   She’s worried that the school district may seek additional wage and benefit concessions next year, when the new contract expires.   

Detroit Public Schools
6:43 am
Tue June 28, 2011

Roberts holds public hearing on Detroit schools

Emergency Manager of Detroit Public Schools, Roy Roberts.
Photo courtesy of Detroit Public Schools

Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts says he’s on a mission from the Governor to make the schools work.

Roberts spoke at a public hearing Monday night to discuss next school year’s proposed district budget.

Roberts spoke only briefly about his budget proposal. It calls for cutting more than 850 positions, and all wages by 10-percent.

Roberts then listened silently to concerns from parents, teachers, and other school staff…some of whom took the opportunity to shout at him.

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Education
3:52 pm
Thu June 23, 2011

Detroit schools chief: Unions need to get on board or out of the way

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts
Detroit Public Schools

Update 3:52 pm:

Roy Roberts' budget plan submitted to the state today calls for cutting wages by 10 percent. It would also trim expenses by $231 million, and reduce contracts by $48 million. As Roberts already announced, the proposal calls for floating $200 million in bonds to help erase the district's $327 million deficit.

_____________________

The emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools says he wants to work with the district’s unions.

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Commentary
10:42 am
Thu June 23, 2011

Mutual Assured Deterrence

Governor Rick Snyder’s Emergency Manager law was highly controversial even before it was passed - and yesterday, a coalition of twenty-eight teachers, union members and private citizens filed suit, claiming the law is unconstitutional.

In their view, it violates the state constitution because it gives the executive branch power over the legislative, violating the separation of powers, something fundamental to both the United States and Michigan constitutions. To me, the only thing surprising about this suit was that it took so long to be filed.

This is not the first of the governor’s sweeping reforms to face a constitutional challenge. Lawsuits have already claimed the taxing of pensions is unconstitutional. Such cases can often take months or even years to wend their way through the court system. But in the case of the pension tax, to his credit, the governor requested a speedy decision from the Michigan Supreme Court.

The justices have agreed to hear the case in September, which is lightning speed in high court terms.

Getting this resolved quickly makes perfect sense, partly so that the state can try to figure out budget alternatives just in case the ruling goes against them.

Deciding this early should also prevent the endless cycle of hearings, injunctions and motions to lift injunctions.

But as long as the high court has agreed to an expedited decision on the constitutionality of the pension tax, it should give us a speedy ruling on the emergency financial manager bill as well.

Everything I know about our state’s highest court, and the experts I have talked to about this, makes me think it is highly likely the justices will rule in Governor Snyder’s favor in both cases.

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Politics
4:00 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

A new challenge to state Emergency Financial Manager law

Gov. Rick Snyder
Gov. Rick Snyder

 A group opposed to the state’s new emergency manager law has filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse it.  The lawsuit says the emergency manager law undermines voters’ rights to choose their elected officials. That’s because the law allows state-appointed emergency managers sweeping powers - including the ability to remove elected officials who don’t cooperate.

 Kym Spring is one of the 28 plaintiffs challenging the law:

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Politics
1:15 pm
Sat June 18, 2011

Financial manager repeal effort under way Saturday

People opposed to Michigan's financial managers law are intensifying their efforts to get a repeal on the November ballot. The law gives financial managers broad powers over financially troubled school districts and local governments.

A group called the Committee to Stand Up for Democracy has organized signature-collection efforts Saturday in 11 cities. Supporters say the law is needed to help financially troubled entities get back on their feet. Opponents say it's a power grab that let’s unelected appointees throw out union contracts and take authority away from elected officials.

Politics
4:51 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

Flint prepares to enter new fiscal year with uncertainty

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Flint's new city budget begins July first.  But it's still not clear if city employees will be laid off to make the numbers work.    The Flint city council approved the city's budget on Monday.   The spending plan is based partly on a 15% wage and benefit concession by Flint's city unions.   Concessions that the unions have not agreed too. 

Even though the new budget takes effect July 1st, Flint mayor Dayne Walling insists layoffs are not imminent.   He says decisions on possible staff cuts will be based on monthly reviews of Flint's budget situation.  

 “There is a reality that you can only spend a dollar one time.    And once that dollar gets spent…than its not available for services in January or next Spring.”   

Flint has already laid off dozens of city employees during the past year, as the city struggles with a multi-million dollar budget deficit.

Politics
1:46 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

Benton Harbor commissioners against emergency manager debate strategy

Benton Harbor Mayor Wilce Cook rallied against Harris last month. At a meeting Monday he said they shouldn't defy Harris' orders, 'The state says we shouldn’t pass a resolution, then I think we should be smart enough to not pass a resolution.'
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Elected officials in Benton Harbor are debating the best way to deal with their state-appointed emergency manager. Two Benton Harbor commissioners support the city’s emergency manager, Joe Harris. The remaining seven are united against Harris.

Harris was appointed more than a year ago to fix Benton Harbor’s finances. Since then he’s taken away the commission’s powers to take action or pass resolutions.

These seven commissioners all believe Harris’ power will ultimately prove unconstitutional in court. But they don’t agree on what they should do next.

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Politics
4:59 pm
Tue June 7, 2011

Local officials, emergency manager continue to struggle for power in Benton Harbor

Benton Harbor City Hall
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Emergency Manager Joe Harris signed two orders this week to discourage city commissioners determined to fight his orders.

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Politics
12:22 pm
Tue June 7, 2011

Pontiac police dispatchers union contract can be voided by emergency manager

Pontiac police car
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

For the first time, a state appointed emergency manager has permission to void a union contract in a Michigan city. The state Treasurer’s office gave its approval to Pontiac’s emergency manager Monday to void the city’s police dispatchers’ contract.   Pontiac’s policing duties are being taken over by the Oakland County sheriff’s department. 

Robert Sedler is a constitutional law professor at Wayne State University.  He believes the courts would find the decision to void the contract a ‘reasonable’ one. 

 “What I think makes this reasonable in the Pontiac situation is that it is part of a transfer of law enforcement from the city of Pontiac to the sheriff.”

 The Michigan legislature expanded the powers of state appointed emergency managers this year. 

There are numerous groups considering legal challenges to the law.

Politics
10:37 am
Thu June 2, 2011

Pontiac emergency manager moves to void police dispatchers contract

Downtown Pontiac. The city has major financial problems. The emergency manager of Pontiac wants to void a contract with the city's police dispatcher's union.
user dt10111 Flickr

Another Michigan emergency manager is seeking to use broad new powers granted to him by the new emergency manager law.

Pontiac emergency manager Michael Stampfler is working to void a contract with the city's police dispatchers union.

The city's police department voted to dissolve itself last March because of the city's budget problems.

The city and the Oakland County Sheriff's Department are working to draw up a contract to police Pontiac's streets, but a contract with the dispatcher's union is holding up the process, according to the Oakland Press.

From the Oakland Press:

Pontiac Emergency Manager Michael Stampfler has submitted a letter to the Michigan Department of Treasury requesting to end the contract with the police dispatchers’ union.

“I don’t know that anyone has yet to use ... the section of the legislation saying we want to do this,” said Stampfler, adding work is being done to have the transition from the Pontiac police to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office completed by July 1.

The proposed contract for law enforcement and dispatch services hasn’t been signed because of the contract with the dispatchers’ union.

Officials from the Michigan Association of Police, the union representing the dispatchers, were not available for comment.

Some groups are planning to challenge the new emergency manager law in court. Nullifying a union contract could be one place were a challenge to the law begins.

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Economy
2:30 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Interview: Do Emergency Managers actually help?

flickr / joshuadavisphotography

Governor Rick Snyder passed new laws expanding the power of Emergency Financial Managers, and there’s been debate over whether or not Emergency Managers are able to turnaround the municipalities and districts they’re assigned to.

Michigan Radio’s Jenn White spoke with Gary Olsen, Former Director of the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants. Here is the interview:

Do Emergency Managers leave their cities or districts in better financial condition?

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