East Lansing Balances Budget, No Major Cuts

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While the capital city had to shave $11 million from its annual budget, resulting in some substantial cuts, its neighbor to the east has an ally in the war on deficits: New development.

"It's the fifth or sixth year of tight budgets in East Lansing," City Manager Ted Staton said in an interview Friday afternoon.

Those tight budgets have meant dipping into reserves to fund city services, and talk of raising property taxes.

But not this year.

"No use of reserves, doesn't raise taxes, won't layoff any employees," Staton says of his city budget proposal.

He says city departments were able to pare down an original deficit of roughly $1 million without much noticeable impact on city services.

It's been a different story in the City of Lansing.

Lansing's deficit was $11 million out of a $108 million general fund budget. That's a 10 percent deficit, compared to a roughly 3 percent deficit in East Lansing: A $1 million gap in the city's $33 million general fund.

Why the difference?

"We're seeing steady growth in tax revenues because we have new development contributing to the tax base," Staton said.

And where's the new development that's helping the city most?

Not in downtown East Lansing. Staton says redevelopment is only keeping the area from losing property value.

He says the new development near US-127 and Lake Lansing Road has been the strongest source of the new tax money for the city.

Lansing doesn't have room for that kind of growth.

East Lansing has also been able to cut personnel costs by increasing medical insurance co-pays for workers.

Another big help: Steady revenue sharing money from the state this year. It's the money cities get to cover basic services. Revenue sharing has been cut in the past, and could be cut in the future. Cuts cities say might endanger their balanced budgets.

"It's our second largest revenue source ... If that partnership is sustained, we'll be able to conitnue to produce the kind of budgets we have for years to come," Staton said.

Staton will present that budget proposal to the East Lansing City Council Tuesday.

-- in East Lansing, Tony Tagliavia, News 10.