Today, the Bing Administration presented a second amendment to Detroit City Council to restore $25 Million in cuts from the $50 Million in reductions the council approved for the FY2012 budget. I voted “no!” This action will cause an increase in the accumulated deficit and is a turnaround from our decision to make responsible cuts.
I am perplexed as to how we arrived in this place today. Last year, we restored funds to the budget after the threats of park and recreation closures. We have learned that those actions added to the deficit and contributed to the recent downgrading of some municipal bonds by Fitch Ratings.
This year, we set out to take a responsible course. The City Council sensibly made a $50 Million reduction to the FY2012 budget based on soft, “if-come” revenues. This $50 Million cut was already a compromise when council began with a $140 Million reduction goal based on the soft revenues in the budget.
Once again, this year political threats were made to close parks and recreation centers and layoff police officers, firefighters and cut bus service. Those were merely threats to enrage citizens and force council to backtrack on its decision. The $50 Million reduction could be applied responsibly by department directors without a severe impact on services including public safety. The intention of the cut was to give the mayor time to make the structural changes to health care and pension costs that would eliminate the accumulated deficit.
Citizens should be outraged that the Detroit Police Department (DPD) has not filled 152 vacancies caused by attrition during the past 12 months. Last year, City Council placed money in the budget to fill these vacancies and the department has chosen not to do so. To say that City Council is placing public safety in jeopardy by our cuts is inaccurate. I for one would never place an undue burden on DPD. Both DPD and the Detroit Fire Department have not filled their vacancies. In DPD, where is the $15 Million that was approved in the budget to hire new officers?
We continue to operate in the past and continue the culture of spending more than we generate in revenue. This culture and attitude must change! If we don’t make the transformation, we will continue to add to the deficit, negatively impact our bond ratings and certainly lose control of our assets through an Emergency Manager.
If the revenue projected by the Administration after the first quarter does not come to fruition, we must responsibly make adjustments in the FY2012 budget in order to prevent further increases to the deficit. During the next 12 months, it is unlikely that our income or property taxes will rise. Similarly, we keep pointlessly attempting to collect past due payments and projecting those as revenue from individuals and businesses who have no intention of fulfilling their obligations.
I urge the Administration to implement the restructuring plans they have at their disposal, including the recommendations from the Turnaround Transition Team led by Denise Ilitch and other business leaders and the McKinsey performance audits.
I will now shift my focus to the Deficit Elimination Plan, a recommended public safety strategy, as well as the other business of Detroit City Council.
I implore Detroit citizens and the business and non-profit community who have invested so greatly in our beloved city to advocate for responsible fiscal management.