By Meghan Christian
A proposed City of Flint 2018-2019 budget of $55.8 million, of which $23.2 milion, or roughly 59 percent, is earmarked for public safety, and a proposed 2019-2020 budget of $56.6 million, was presented by Chief Financial Officer Hughey Newsome for comment at a public hearing Tuesday in City Hall.
Of the dozen people in attendance, only a handful were not employed by the city, and from that number, only one resident spoke. R.L. Mitchell voiced his thoughts that the Mayor’s salary should be raised now that the City is no longer under emergency management.
This hearing, which lasted only 27 minutes, was one step in the budget process for the City of Flint. As explained by First Ward Councilman and Chair of the Finance Committee Eric Mays, Mayor Karen Weaver and her staff are proposing the budget and from there it goes to the city council. Council members have been meeting with various city department heads as the process proceeds.
After the budget formally goes to the council, it will either accept the budget as presented or make amendments. Once amendments are made, the budget will go back to the mayor.
“If the mayor agrees with those amendments, then that’s the budget, but if she objects to those amendments, she can veto the proposed budget with amendments and then we would have to get six or more votes in city council to override the mayor’s veto,” Mays explained.
Newsome presented a brief overview of the proposed budget, highlighting the state of the City’s general fund. According to Newsome, the City is expected to bring in approximately $55.8 million revenue to the general fund in 2018-2019, of which $4.7 million is expected to come from property taxes. This is an increase of roughly $120,000 from the 2017-2018 amended budget.
Property taxes are expected to increase again in the 2019-2020 proposed budget. According to the notice posted by the City in The Flint Journal on May 6, property taxes are expected to account for roughly $4.8 million of the general fund revenues; an increase of about $160,000.
On the expenditure side, included in the Mayor’s proposed budget is $250,000 for the Office of the Ombudsman for both upcoming fiscal years. This office was a requirement of the new Flint City Charter which was adopted by a two-to-one vote in August 2017 and was to be implemented on Jan. 1 of this year. The council has yet to appoint an ombudsman.
Even with these proposed increases to general fund revenue, Newsome said the city needs to maintain control on spending to be able to combat rising costs across departments and to meet its Municipal Employees’ Retirement System (MERS) obligations. These obligations are pension commitments for retired city employees.
“We have to really focus on maintaining control of our costs, and right now one cost that is going to continue to increase…are projected expenditures across different departments,” Newsome said. “But underneath that is the MERS obligation, the pension obligation, that we have,” he added.
Newsome also touched on other expenditures like retiree healthcare and on increasing costs in the City’s other funds as well. “I won’t go into deep into the other funds right now, but I will say that for the most part what you do find is that…in our other adopted funds we are seeing increased costs,” Newsome said.
After the presentation by Newsome, Mays reminded those in attendance that the council still has the ability to propose amendments to the mayor and urged his colleagues to bring potential amendments to the next finance committee meeting. “I would encourage all council members to do their homework tonight and come prepared tomorrow to discuss proposed budget amendments that might move forward,” Mays said.
The finance committee will meet next during the city council committee meetings, beginning at 5 p.m. in the city council committee room located on the third floor of City Hall today. The meetings are open to the public. Residents can find a copy of the proposed budget here.
EVM Managing Editor Meghan Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.