Nov. 11 2009 12:00 AM

An aggregator of Lansing government happenings

You could call some of the people working on plugging the city’s mid-year deficit the Cryptic Keepers.

Since announcing the city’s mid-year $3 million deficit, Finance Director Jerry Ambrose has been hauling out the excruciating phrase, “everything is on the table.” Its use got a little worse at Monday’s City Council meeting when the phrase was linked with the word “layoffs.”

On Monday, Ambrose said that the city has been fortunate in four years in not having to lay anyone off, but … everything’s on the table. So far, Ambrose has said that the city has offered voluntary furloughs to employees (it is not known if any employees have used this option), so that’s clearly on the table, and the city has used about $1.3 million from its reserves to bridge the gap — something that’s not really been on the table in the past, though Mayor Virg Bernero says that reserves are meant to be used in a time such as this where there’s a mid-year deficit, but certainly not during the yearly budget process. So, what other sacred cows does the city have? Is the city going to cut from the police and fire departments?

When asked if Ambrose’s “table” comments Monday could include public safety departments, Randy Hannan, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, said this: “It means what it means: everything’s on the table. Public safety functions are over 50 percent of the budget, and we’ve managed to hold it harmless over four years. We may be close to the point where it’s no longer possible.”

Well, it may be on the table, but that doesn’t mean it has to get eaten.

Ambrose promised Monday that the administration would forward its deficit elimination plan to the City Council in the next couple of weeks.