Council Passes Budgets, Mayor Says He Will Veto

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Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says the department budgets passed Saturday by the city council are headed for a veto. The council passed budgets mostly in line with the "compromise" plan to cut funding across the board and dip into city reserves.

Still, the action puts the city one step closer to the council's final budget due Monday at midnight.

The parks budget is among those passed. It includes funding for all three of the city's regular golf courses for the whole next year.

Council members changed their original concept by adding one job back into the city's planning department. They also approved a new funded position on the council's staff, which the mayor's office says hadn't been included in the council's concept budget.

The budgets passed put a priority on preserving as much of the city's workforce as possible, despite cuts in operational budgets.

Mayor Virg Bernero says it's the wrong set of priorities.

"They're focused on personnel and personality," and not on providing public service, he says.

Bernero says if the budget stays like it is, he'll veto it.

The mayor has at least one council member on his side when it comes to the budget. Citywide Councilmember Kathie Dunbar says the 1.5 percent acorss-the-board budget cuts will hurt basic necessities.

"Paper, pencils, mowers, in the case of the parks department," Dunbar said. She says the funding cuts defeat the purpose of making city services more efficient. While maintaining stafflng levels, Dunbar says, the plan hurts staffers ability to do their jobs.

Dunbar often cast the lone vote against each of the budgets passed.

She also raised questions about the power of the council to give funds to specific programs -- like the police in schools program. Council Member Sandy Allen says it's clear what the mayor will do on the matter.

Still, council members specifically removed references to the program from the police budget. The mayor says it's evidence that the council is overstepping its authority.

"I'm the CEO and I'm going to lead this city," Bernero said.

The council is set to meet Monday afternoon to tackle what's called "budget policies."

The meeting will likely include new legal opinions on just how much power the city council possesses over financial matters.