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Flint's budget process: meaningless or transitional?

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Some Flint city council members and residents are expressing frustration with the way the city’s emergency manager is handling the creation of next year’s budget.

“We deserve better,” said one of the dozens of Flint residents who turned out for a public hearing on the proposed two-year city budget Monday night. 

The plan includes eliminating 36 police positions and 19 firefighter jobs. The budget also calls for raising Flint’s already high water and sewer rates by 6% a year for each of the next two years.

City council members listened, but the council can do little to change the plan.

Emergency Manager Darnell Earley has final say on the budget.

Councilwoman Monica Galloway called the budget public hearing ”meaningless."  She was also disappointed that Earley didn’t even attend the public hearing.

“That fact that you don’t show up to hear what the people say says to me that maybe that’s not a concern,” Galloway said after the meeting.

But Earley says getting input from citizens and the city council has been important. 

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley (right) listens as Mayor Dayne Walling speaks during a news conference today.

He says numerous meeting and hearings have been part of a process to prepare the city’s elected leaders for an eventual transition back to local control.

And Earley insists “everyone who needs to be a part of this process has been included.”

The city council will meet again on the budget June 23.  

Flint is ending this fiscal year on June 30 with a $12 million deficit.

Under the two-year budget plan, the city’s deficit would be trimmed by a third.

But an ongoing legal dispute between the city of Flint and its retirees over health care benefits threatens to tip the city in the wrong direction.

The city wants to scale back the health care it offers to retirees.  That’s something the retirees are fighting in federal court.

Earley says if an agreement can’t be reached, Flint may have to consider its options, including filing for Chapter Nine bankruptcy protection.   

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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