Four takeaways from Lansing’s latest budget proposal
Lansing Mayor Andy Schor presented his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year to the city council this week, including plans to hire a second police worker and divert non-urgent calls to local welfare offices.
The proposal includes spending approximately $ 151.2 million from July 1 this year through June 30, 2022 – an increase of around 10% from the current budget of $ 136.9 million. Revenue is expected to grow a modest 0.7% from the current budget, which is expected to topped up to approximately $ 51 million after the federal rescue plan is passed. All in all, the city will have around $ 14.6 million in reserve funds for the next year – from just $ 5.4 million left during the pandemic.
The number of proposed full-time employees is also 904 out of 894 in the final budget, most of whom are in the public service department to fill an upcoming 311 hotline.
Here are a few quick takeaways:
Biden saves the day
More than $ 50 million in federal funding is expected to pour into the city coffers over the next two years, which can be spent over the next three years to offset the decline in sales caused by pandemics. Schor said cash will help replenish some of the losses in the current budget – mainly to offset the reduction in park revenue and replenish funding for the Lansing Center.
Officials are still awaiting accurate revenue estimates and federal spending restrictions. Schor said it could not be spent on road repairs or to replenish unfunded pension obligations for retirees.
Police reform, not divestment …
By increasing the Lansing Police Department’s proposed budget by 2.4% this year from $ 26.3 million, Schor has ruined the continued chances of the police being sold in the capital. Despite the rallying call from Black Lives Matter and other groups, the city council voted against making the divestment a budgetary priority last year, so the council is unlikely to intervene.
Instead, Schor planned to hire a second social worker for the police department, improve police radio systems, buy gun locking mechanisms, and hire another employee to help deal with Freedom of Information Act requests sent to the police department.
The fire department will also receive additional money to fund a partnership with Ingham County Community Health to use trained health professionals to link emergency calls to more appropriate resources, rather than an armed and uniformed police officer.
Schor also agreed to donate $ 240,000 earlier this year to the Advance Peace Initiative, a regional partnership program that brings together approximately 25 residents who, statistically, are more likely to be with local mentors over an 18-month period are involved in armed violence. Those recruited for the scholarship could also earn monthly grants of up to $ 1,000 for their work.
… social justice and racial justice
According to an ordinance passed by the city council last month, at least $ 135,000 of the Schor budget will be allocated to local organizations that aim to promote racial and social justice in the city. How (and where) the money will be spent remains to be seen.
The latest proposal also provides for $ 300,000 to be invested in a new standing equity committee after the mayor’s Racial Justice and Equity Alliance has not yet published a plan. Schor said the money will mainly be spent on training staff, assessing the racial landscape in Lansing, and soliciting community input as longer-term plans evolve.
Financing of unfinanced costs
Schor said “challenges” remain as the city struggles to cut its unfinanced retirement and retiree health care expenses, including a proposed annual payment of $ 46.5 million in its latest budget proposal. This plan would increase annual contributions by more than $ 4 million this year.
Officials warned that this portion of the budget – although expected to be cut by up to $ 3.5 million annually following the recent changes to pension benefits and union contracts – could remain unstable and fluctuate in market investment amid the pandemic will last until 2021.