Lansing Has Surplus, But For How Long?

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Mid-way through the fiscal year and the city of Lansing is enjoying a $3 million surplus.

"Right now, we're in budget," says councilwoman Carol Wood. "Most of the departments are coming within budget."

Departments like parks and recreation, neighborhood development and city council; they're spending far less than their budgets allow. But Lansing Chief of Staff Jerry Ambrose says this year's real money-saver has been a hiring freeze on city jobs.

"We've been very aggressive this year about holding positions vacant. That's enabled us to reduce our expenses," he says.

The city has saved $1.3 million this year on jobs alone. But it's a plan Wood worries may backfire.

"Will that have an overall effect on revenue? What if a person can't get a building permit because there's no one at the desk-- are we going to miss out on that project?"

That's not the only financial problem the city is anticipating; they're worrying about the effects of the state's $850 million deficit.

"If there's anywhere in the state that gets hit directly by the state layoffs, it's Lansing," Ambrose says.

As soon as the state starts laying people off, the city's revune will be thrown for a loop.

"The majority of state employees work here. Many of them live here. If they're not working, they're not paying income tax," Ambrose adds.

And income tax is a major source of revenue for the city, along with millions of dollars the city stands to lose in state revenue sharing. The state has the ability to take much of the annual $18 million given to Lansing away.

Without that money, and with a projected $10 million deficit for Lansing in 2007, this surplus may be short-lived.