Lansing Mayor's Budget Due in One Week

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Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero has one week to present his budget to the city council. Although he won't confirm that specific cuts have been made, the mayor's budget priorities are increasingly clear.

"Oh, we're getting very close," Bernero said in an interview before the city council meeting Monday night.

Close a final budget, according to the mayor. And that means this time next week, the City of Lansing could be looking at fewer golf courses. They're among the things Mayor Virg Bernero identifies as low priorities among city services.

"We're looking at long time big picture items, like: How many parks can we afford?" Bernero said.

But he wouldn't say whether his budget will propose selling one of the city's four courses. The mayor and council members are more certain of what won't be cut.

"Fire, police, roads, for example -- those are the essential services," said Councilwoman Sandy Allen (2nd), former council president.

Still the mayor and council members might consider a small decrease in funding to those public services.

"We can't afford sacred cows any more," Bernero said.

Besides golf courses, the mayor appears ready to shift the $1.2 million the city spends on the Potter Park Zoo -- to the county.

"We're looking at better, more stable funds for the zoo. Getting it dedicated earmarked funds," he said.

The question is: Will the county bite?

"It appears as though they're open to discussing it," Councilman Tim Kaltenbach (4th) said.

Even if the city closed all four golf courses and transferred zoo expenses to the county, more than 80 percent of the deficit would remain.

Personnel costs are eating up an ever-increasing share of the city's budget. Allen says she expects that to be taken into consideration.

"A hiring freeze ... keeping the vacancies we have," she said.

The mayor says he's committed to a balanced budget -- and that will mean substantial cuts.

"This is not a blip on the radar screen. It's bigger than what we're going to face in the future, but have got to set some things right," Bernero said.

It seems at least some council members are willing to accept that view.

"It may be scaled but from the programs we've had, but these are lean times, and we'll deal with it," Kaltenbach said.

We'll see just how lean the times are a week from tonight, when the mayor presents his budget to the council.

-- in Lansing, Tony Tagliavia, News 10.