Flint residents react to proposed budget including public safety - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Flint residents react to proposed budget including public safety cuts, water rate increases

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FLINT (WJRT) - (05/01/14) - Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley says his two year budget proposal, released Wednesday night, sets a sustainable course for the city.

But the plan calls for dozens of cuts to public safety positions and increases to water rates, easily two of the most talked about topics among residents.

East side resident Mary Lewis said some neighbors can't afford to keep their water on. She can't imagine paying more than she already does.

"My water bill runs right around almost $300/month," she said. "I think it's ludicrous that anybody's water bill would be that high."

Lee Ogburn says his is about that high too.

"It's really hard to understand," he said.

Earley's plan also calls for eliminating 36 police department positions by the end of fiscal year 2015. Some vacant spots won't be filled and the rest lost through attrition.

"Looking at this budget, it's a very bleak picture," said Councilman Bryant Nolden, Wednesday night.

"The governor didn't need to send three emergency managers to get us to this particular point, I think we could have done this on our own," said Councilman Sheldon Neeley.

Earley says his staff and council be working hard through the next months to lessen the impact and not lay off immediately.

"The City of Flint has an obligation to budget responsibly and that has led to this two-year budget proposal," said Earley, in an emailed statement, Thursday. "The budgets for these two fiscal years are balanced. The City remains in a budgetary crisis that impairs our ability to provide public safety and other city services."

Finance Director Jerry Ambrose said, over the next two years, the voter approved public safety millage will be fully utilized to maintain the proposed levels of police and fire.

"There was much discussion, early on, when this millage was initially passed that perhaps we should use the money immediately to hire more staff," said Ambrose , Wednesday night. "We cautioned that looking forward we would need that money to attempt to maintain police and fire staffing on a more stable level. That's exactly what is going to happen in 2015-2016."

The fire department is slated to be down 19 spots. Twenty positions that used to be funded by the SAFER grant will be funded by the millage money because that grant was not approved.

"I would prefer seeing everybody close their doggone doors and we have police and fire," said Councilwoman Jackie Poplar, Wednesday night.

"I'm looking forward to the process, maybe not the results, but being reengaged in governing the city," said Councilman Josh Freeman. "It's going to be a busy May."

Earley urged council members to go over the plan in the next week.

Discussions will then begin to take place during finance committee meetings.

Read Earley's two-year budget proposal HERE.

In the midst of all of this, a big unknown looms.

"The city will continue working towards a resolution of the retiree health care lawsuit," Earley said. "This, in and of itself, is a huge, multi-million dollar obligation that must be managed."
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