Lansing Deals With Drastic Cuts

By: Meaghan M. Norman Email
By: Meaghan M. Norman Email

Lansing voters have spoken and they don't want a tax increase. Instead, dozens of police and firefighters will be laid off. It's an outcome that city leaders did not want but now are forced to decide what happens next.

Layoffs are coming; dozens to police and fire.

"Now we're facing the worst case scenario," said Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. "We will pick up the pieces and we will do the best we can with what we have."

Picking up the pieces includes looking more seriously now at the all-cuts budget that Mayor Bernero proposed in March --- upwards of 100 police officers and firefighters combined with three fire stations potentially closing.

Lansing Police Chief Teresa Szymanski says response times will be inevitably impacted and another concern is not only safety of civilians but also officers who will not have the same number of officers to rely on for backup. But the chief insists that the police department can still be depended on in an emergency. "We will come when you call [but] it might take a little bit longer."

Some city leaders say the real issue on the ballot was the economy, not the millage.

"When you look at millage issues it usually turns out to be about the pocketbook," said Lansing city councilman Brian Jeffries. "During these hard economic times people are trying to figure out if they'll have a job tomorrow let alone having to pay these phenomenally high gas prices and increasing groceries."

The police officer's union says the absentee voters, those who had their minds made up early, were the ones who tipped the scale. Without them, they say the millage would have passed.

"I think as more people got information as the election date drew near, I think the votes for it increased," said Bernero. "I think it was gaining momentum but the absentee votes that were cast earlier in the time period, canceled it out."

Layoffs will be effective July 1st, but union contracts require 30 days notice. In the meantime, both police and fire are hoping for more concessions to reduce the number that are laid off, and council now has to deal with a budget with no plan B.

"I don't think council's really been focused on what if it fails then what are the other choices," said Jeffries.

A tough job ahead with tough cuts in a very tight time frame. City council has less than two weeks to pass a balanced budget. is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules:

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