LANSING -- The Lansing City Council moved forward Thursday with a plan to rehire 11 police officers and three firefighters who had been previously cut.
Mayor Virg Bernero's original proposal had called for nine police officers and one firefighter, with additional hires (up to 19 police officers) contingent upon concessions from unions.
The council's budget amendments, which passed Thursday, would use money from a millage approved by voters earlier this year; the money will only go toward hiring staff, rather than equipment ,and revamping a city building to be a future police headquarters, as Bernero originally proposed.
"We wanted to make sure that those funds went to put more police out there, more firefighters out there," said council president Brian Jeffries.
The amendments, backed by Jeffries, also assume a 5.5 percent return-on-equity payment from the Board of Water and Light, which would pay only 5 percent under Bernero's proposal.
The board will vote on the full budget Monday, including these amendments.
Problem is, BWL has not agreed to a 5.5 percent payment, and its board issued a statement Thursday noting members "fully support the Mayor's proposal."
Without that extra 0.5 percent, the council's proposed budget is short about $1.5 million, and the city would be left holding the bag.
Because of that, Bernero vowed Thursday to veto "most of it" if the full council approves it Monday. Based on Thursday's vote (5-3), the council wouldn't have the necessary six votes to override the mayor's veto.
"This reminds me of my children's two favorite board games: Monopoly and Candy Land," Bernero quipped Thursday. "Monopoly because they're using fake money, and Candy Land because it's fantasy-based -- gum drops and lollipops."
Bernero said BWL will not accept a 5.5 percent return-on-equity, and argued the only reasonable, responsible solution is concessions on pensions and benefits from both police and non-emergency workers.
He called on both those unions to offer $1 million in concessions, which would be enough to put police officers and firefighters back on the street.
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