TUESDAY, March 29 — Lansing Mayor Andy Schor submitted his fifth annual budget proposal to the City Council last night at an unscheduled presentation, officially kicking off budget season in Lansing and giving the Council until May 16 to review and adopt a final budget for the city.
Schor’s budget recommendations — which cover July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023 — focus on “priorities for Lansing’s future growth” and include “strategic investment in strengthening neighborhoods, parks and commercial corridors; community service needs; public safety, infrastructure; and continued racial justice work,” according to a press release from Schor.
Here are few highlights:
Revenue is up. Spending is up.
The current budget sets General Fund revenues at $133.5 million. Schor’s latest proposal calls for that revenue stream to widen to $145.3 million this year, an increase of about 8.8%.
Expenditures are also set to climb by about 2.3% — from $151.3 million to $154.8 million. That includes a budget increase for just about every city department, including a 6% boost to the Police and Fire departments for a few new employees and to replace obsolete equipment.
Economic development moves in-house.
Schor’s budget plans to formally incorporate the Lansing Economic Development Corp. as the city’s primary economic development agency — a contractual role that’s been filled by the Lansing Economic Area Partnership, which serves as a sort of middleman to subcontract with LEDC. Under the new deal, the city will contract directly with LEDC and retain its existing staff.
The city will also remain a LEAP member and, as such, retain all the benefits that come with it.
Several new employees will be hired.
The current budget includes funding for 913 city employees. Schor’s latest proposal calls for a new citywide total of 921 — a staffing shift that includes adding 10 positions across five city departments and cutting back on two positions in the Public Service. Department.
— A full-time grant administrator in the Office of Financial Empowerment to collect federal money to support economic development in the city in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as maintain and expand opportunities for neighborhood-level programs.
— A code compliance officer and mechanical inspector. An accountant will also work on improving the accuracy and timeliness of the city’s financial reporting, which for years have been flagged as a “material weakness” in annual audits.
— Two contract workers to assist the City Assessor’s Office with reviewing and updating personal property records to ensure the city is collecting its fair share in tax revenue. Schor’s proposal states that the staffers may find “additional property tax revenue.”
— Three more posirions in the Human Resources Department: a deputy director; a hiring and recruiting specialist; and a health and wellness specialist. Schor’s idea: “Attracting and retaining talent is necessary to provide the best service possible to the people of Lansing.”
— A part-time legal assistant in the City Attorney's Office.
— An assistant police chief position for more “efficient organizational support,” according to Schor’s budget.
— A public information coordinator to replace LPD spokesman Bob Merritt, as well as a clerk to assist with the Central Records division.
LEPFA needs more help.
The budget includes an extra $500,000 for the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority, which manages the Lansing Center, Jackson Field and the Groesbeck Golf Course. This year’s subsidy was set at $1.44 million; Schor’s proposal calls for a total of $1.98 million — an increase blamed on the lasting “economic impacts of COVID-19,” according to the budget.
Legacy costs are still a priority.
Schor’s budget aims to keep the city’s long-term financial outlook a “top priority” by contributing another $54.6 million toward its unfunded pension and retirement benefits systems — bringing the city closer to fully funding its outstanding total liabilities of about $219 million.
Rainy day funds are padded.
Schor’s proposal projects a balanced budget this year with a remaining fund balance of about $18.58 million — or 12% of expenditures. That’s up from $11.17 million in last year’s budget, but still down significantly from the $49.5 million that was tracked the year prior.
“It is important that as we pay our bills and provide the best services possible to our community, we also monitor and protect our long-term financial health,” according to Schor's new proposal. “The proposed FY 2023 budget is balanced, utilizing federal dollars to support government services to the extent of revenue losses due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, and maintaining a fund balance that fulfills the City’s 12% to 15% fund balance policy.”
More cash is on the way.
Schor also unveiled an amendment to the current budget that opens up federal dollars and additional funds from a nationwide opioid settlement for continued investments.
Among them: $2 million in “hero pay” for eligible first responders and workers, and a third social worker who is set to be hired at the Police Department from excess funds in the current budget.
Those funds from the opioid settlement were not included in the latest budget recommendation because the precise amount paid to the city is still unknown. When it comes in, Schor said he plans to release an additional spending plan for the Council’s consideration — which could also include more funding for the Fire Department to replace its aging equipment and technology.
Schor said he plans to announce additional “budget initiatives” from the American Rescue Plan Act funding at a City Council meeting on April 11.
Check back for continued coverage. Read the full budget online here.
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