Lansing Faces $11 Million Budget Deficit

Mayor Virg Bernero is calling the funding model for cities

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is seen in an Aug. 29, 2007 photo in Lansing, Mich. Bernero said Monday, Dec. 21, 2009 he plans to create an exploratory committee as he considers challenging Lt. Gov. John Cherry and others for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination next year. The former state lawmaker will file paperwork this week and plans to decide whether to enter the race early next year. (AP Photo/Lansing State Journal, Rod Sanford)

Mayor Virg Bernero will not say where and what the cuts will be, but he says they will be painful.

"Everything is on the table," said Bernero.

That's the message Bernero is looking to send after reporting an $11 million budget shortfall for the Lansing's 2014 Fiscal Year, which begins next July.

After years of cutting city programs and a third of Lansing's jobs to solve past deficits, Bernero says tough decisions will have to be made in order to keep the city afloat.

"Now, when we go to take $11 million, it is really going to come out of our hide," said Bernero. "The choices that we have are not going to be between waste and good. It is going to be between good and vital."

According to Bernero, everything is on the line.

"The community centers we run are wonderful things that are needed in the community," said Bernero. I don't want to close a single community center and I'm not suggesting we will. I'm just telling you this is a big amount of money."

The mayor blames much of the deficit on the struggling housing market reducing property tax revenue, a main source of income for the city.

There are also a number of expenses that continue to increase.

"56 percent of my budget is police and fire. It costs more money to run fire engines than police cars because of the price of gas," said Bernero. "Health care has gone up somewhat. Pension obligations are up and my revenue is down."

Despite the difficult decisions, Bernero says he will have a balanced budget ready by March of 2013.

"We're going to have to figure out how to make the ship run with $11 million less," said Bernero.

The mayor also suggested raising property taxes another .5 mills to the maximum 20 and increase parking ticket fees as ways to cut the deficit, but suggested it would only help a small amount.


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