Mayor Bernero Gets Citizen Views on Budget Gap

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says the city could face a $10 million shortfall in the city budget. So to fill the gap, he's asking people what their priorities are.

Bernero says the city's revenues aren't shrinking -- they're growing -- just not as quickly as the city's costs. That means either Lansing has to cut, or make more money.

"We're asking you to give us ideas ... what is sacrosanct?" Bernero said.

Some had any easy time giving ideas for the city services they want to hold on to.

"I think police, fire, programs for youth," resident Juanita Lewis said.

Others wanted to hear more from the city first.

"What services are you required to provide?" one resident asked.

But when it comes to trimming the budget, since the city provides a lot of core services, many say they can't identify specifc programs to cut.

The mayor has said he won't dip into reserves. And despite new development in the city, Bernero says he won't plan for new money in the city coffers because of it.

"You don't spend money you don't have," he said.

The meeting generated a few ideas likely to generate some cost savings, including selling some of the city's four municipal golf courses.

Others suggested cutting employee pay. But city workers represented by the UAW just negotiated pay raises for the next few years. The mayor says he's glad to have that out of his way.

"It's expensive."

That means there won't be a lot of savings in personnel costs -- unless some workers are fired.

Resident Mike Sleep had an idea sure to save the city money.

"We live in a winter state," Sleep said, so people should learn to drive and walk in the snow.

But it's an idea not likely to become reality.

Still, with a $10 million shortfall looming in the distance, the city 'may' have to look at some drastic solutions.

"We have to right the ship," Bernero said.

The mayor has to present his budget plan next month -- then the city council takes over. The budget process has to be wrapped up in August.

Mayor Bernero will have another listening session Wednesday night at 6 p.m. at Everett High School.

-- in Lansing, Tony Tagliavia, News 10.

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