Lansing Likely in the Red, Again

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From police to fire to golf, the Lansing City Council's budget recommendations are out.

Mayor Virg Bernero has a strong response to many of them.

"The use of reserve will happen over my dead body," he said Wednesday.

The mayor says the city simply cannot afford to use it's "budget stabilization fund" to get the city out of a new projected $5 to $10 million deficit. He says it could hurt the city's ability to borrow money.

"It's now at the limit for what Wall Street will accept," Bernero said.

Councilmember Carol Wood says other cities have dipped further into reserves. Councilmembers want to use the money to protect the jobs of city workers.

"It's making sure that we have the employees there to do the services or we don't do the services," Wood said. "It's one or the other."

The council's priorities document also includes a potential tax increase.

"The residents are willing to pay a little bit more if they understand that it was specifically for fire and police," Wood said.

"I don't think our citizens can afford that at this time. I think we've got to tighten our belts," the mayor said, responding to the idea of a tax increase.

Another issue of disagreement: the council wants the city to explore adding as many as six police officers to the force. The mayor calls that unncessary -- and says there's no money to pay for it.

Golf will once again be a contentious issue. The mayor is again pushing a county takeover of the Red Cedar and Waverly courses. Wood says she's not ready to go along with that idea.

Still, both sides say they're not convinced the disagreements will result in an argumentative budget process like last year's.

"Over time, in listening to each other, hopefully they'll be some kind of compromise," Wood said.

"When the magnitude of the budget problem becomes clear, I think they're going to hunker down," Bernero said.

"I think we're going to hunker down together."

It's hard to say whether the budget process will be more cooperative or contentious until it begins in earnest early next year.