By Meghan Christian and Jan Worth-Nelson
A version of a 2018-2019 city budget proposal calling for eight amendments approved six to three June 4 by the Flint City Council was vetoed Monday by Mayor Karen Weaver.
The $267,000 difference in what the council wants and what the Mayor wants represents one half of one percent of the overall proposed budget of $55.8 million. It mostly centers on adding staff and benefits to the City Council and City Clerk’s offices to attempt to improve their functions, according to statements from the council’s majority.
The council will meet at 11 a.m. Wednesday to attempt to override the veto. A six-to-three council vote would be required within another seven days to overturn her veto, according to City Clerk Inez Brown.
Those in favor in last week’s vote were council members Santino Guerra (Third Ward), Kate Fields (Fourth Ward), Council President Herbert Winfrey (Sixth Ward), Monica Galloway (Seventh Ward), Allan Griggs (Eighth Ward), and Eva Worthing (Ninth Ward).
Those opposed were Eric Mays (First Ward), Maurice Davis (Second Ward), and Jerri Winfrey-Carter (Fifth Ward).
The proposed changes do not represent any increase in the $55.8 million budget as had been presented by Chief Financial Officer Hughey Newsome, but do represent a re-allocation of $267,000, a fact that drew Weaver’s ire in comments to the council last week.
Weaver observed that 80 percent of the budget amendments were to the council’s benefit. She said she did not think Newsome would sign off on it, adding, “I’m not going to have my name attached to it.”
A statement from the majority bloc of the council delivered to the press last week by Fourth Ward Councilwoman Kate Fields said, “The Mayor’s proposed budget did not sufficiently rectify or restore the past ravages to the Clerk’s Office and Council Offices created by cuts imposed by past Emergency Financial Managers.
“City Council is HALF of our existing two-branch form of City Government. If the Clerk’s and Council Offices can’t function effectively—the City won’t functions effectively,” the statement declared.
The eight amendments include:
Council-related amendments, totaling $115,787 to
–Add $500 to the ward accounts of each council member, a compromise from the $3000 originally proposed by Councilman Eric Mays.
–Add a constituent service person to the council office to help support staff,
–Add $30,000 for a parliamentarian for city council meetings.
–Increase salaries and benefits for the city council office’s secretarial staff
–Add $12,766 for dental and vision benefits for some members of council.
City Clerk’s Office-related amendments:
–Reinstate a deputy clerk and increase Clerk’s salary from $70.000 by $20,000, for $145,440
–Add $45,000 for a grant writer for public safety
–Add $10,000 each for upkeep at Hasselbring and Brennan Senior Centers.
Seventh Ward Councilwoman Monica Galloway noted the proposed reallocations represent only “one half of one percent,” of the overall budget, adding, “This council is doing their job. $267,000 is not going to send this community into receivership,” as council members emphasized the amendments would not add to the overall total.
To re-allocate, FCC proposed taking approximately $25,000 from the Mayor’s budget: $10,000 from training and travel costs, $5,000 from publishing and printing, and $10,000 from the city administrator’s office.
According to First Ward Councilman and the council’s finance chair Eric Mays, $80,000 was re-allocated from Smith Village and $90,000 from the seven properties FCC acquired from the Land Bank as a part of a pilot program previously moved by Mays and approved by council.
“There is so much for us to get work done,” Councilwoman Worthing stated in support of the additions to the city council’s budget, “and we can’t transcribe meetings. Sometimes our questions and needs are put back because there’s not enough staff to get the work done.”
Those opposed to the amended budget asserted allocations as proposed in the mayor’s version should be kept where they are and said the council should trust Newsome’s recommendations and support the mayor.
“I got to say that I am not in favor of this amended budget,” Councilwoman Winfrey-Carter said. “We have other things we need to be dealing with right now,” she added, addressing issues with public safety and blight.
“This budget should’ve been approved as it was proposed because we are just coming out of receivership,” Councilman Maurice Davis said. “Now I’m hoping somebody is listening today because it’s not right to the people you…represent,” he added.
The overall budget, being proposed in two parts covering 2018-2019 and 2019-2020, calls for $55.8 million, of which $23.2 milion, or roughly 59 percent, is earmarked for public safety. 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.
EVM Managing Editor Meghan Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at email@example.com.