Flint, MI — Flint City Council voted 5-0 to approve the city’s budget for the 2024 fiscal year (FY), which includes roughly $66.7 million in general fund expenditures.
Council President Allie Herkenroder, Vice President Ladel Lewis, and Councilmembers Judy Priestley, Quincy Murphy and Dennis Pfeiffer voted in favor. Councilman Eric Mays and Councilwomen Tonya Burns and Jerri Winfrey-Carter abstained, and Councilwoman Eva Worthing left the meeting early and was absent for the vote.
Aside from adopting the budget, council also voted to renew the city’s 2023 operating millage.
The millage levies 19.10 mills on every dollar of all taxable property, which will be allocated in the same way as the previous year:
- 7.50 mills for general City 0perating purposes
- 2.50 mills for retirement of debt, improvements and other purposes provided in Section 7-201 of the city charter
- 2.00 mills for police services
- 0.60 mills for public transportation services by the Mass Transportation Authority
- 0.50 mills for improvements and maintenance of city parks, forestry, and recreation purposes
- 6.0 mills for police and fire services.
Council also voted to adopt a $72.18 cost per parcel for residents’ July 2023 tax bill for the purpose of upgrades and improvements to street lighting throughout the city.
Council passed the street light assessment fee 8-0, with Mays abstaining.
Council also voted to maintain the same waste collection user fee as the last year, which totals $202.56 and will also appear on residents’ July 2023 tax bill.
Council passed this 7-0, with Mays and Winfrey-Carter abstaining.
Councilmembers also held a lengthy discussion about whether or not to renew a 1.8806 operating millage for the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), following allegations of the DDA’s misuse of funds.
Council voted to postpone discussions on that millage to its meeting on June 12, 2023.
The FY 2024 budget
The city’s projected revenue in the FY 2024 general fund rounds to $63.7 million, while its anticipated expenditures total around $66.7 million.
During the budget meeting, Murphy expressed concerns over what appeared to be deficit spending, and asked Acting Chief Financial Officer Jane Mager if the budget was balanced.
She said that it was.
“By law, it has to be [a] balanced budget . . . and it is balanced. Yes, there might be one or two departments that doesn’t have revenue so therefore they only have expenses,” Mager said. “But overall it has to be a balanced budget, and it is a balanced budget.”
She went on to say that it’s not possible to run a deficit in a balanced budget and that the city is not running a deficit currently. However, Mager did not directly explain how the budget could be deemed “balanced” when the city’s expenditures exceed its revenue by nearly $3 million.
The acting CFO also did not respond to Flint Beat’s request for that explanation by press time.
In addition to asking spending questions, some councilmembers proposed giving more money to certain city departments.
Burns brought up the city’s witness protection program and said that she knows of some witnesses who haven’t yet received support under it.
She said she wanted to know if there needed to be more money for the program in the FY 2024 budget and lamented that Flint Police Chief Terrence Green did not attend the meeting for her to ask him directly.
“I take public safety very seriously, but he’s not here tonight so I want to make sure his witness protection program is funded properly,” she said.
Mager responded that Green has the ability to move money around in the police department. She also noted that the police department had money left over in the FY 2023 budget but did not clarify how much.
As for the newly adopted budget, the police department has roughly $17.26 million allocated across a variety of purposes:
- Police fleet – $1.5 million
- Police pension and other postemployment benefits (OPEB) – $2.55 million
- Police administration – $1.02 million
- Police administration bureau, inspections – $174,999
- Police administration intel support staff – $1.44 million
- Police technology services, records and identification – $2.21 million
- Police technology services, city impound – $250,200
- Police investigations overhead, criminal investigations overhead – $2.91 million
- Police investigation overhead, police school liaison – $737,410
- Police investigation overhead, special operations – $1.22 million
The fire department was appropriated $13.34 million, also allocated across a variety of purposes:
- Fire administration – $1.26 million
- Fire administration, maintenance – $750,000
- Fire administration, training – $169,342
- Other fire administration – $1.48 million
- Firefighting division, fire station overhead – $9.33 million
- Fire prevention, inspection and training – $334,711
As for some of the other major departments falling under general fund spending, City Council itself was appropriated $1.17 million and the Mayor’s office was appropriated $1.2 million.
The itemized budget is available here.
Unanswered questions and budget process qualms
Prior to passing the 2024 budget, some council members shared concerns regarding the budget process overall.
“When we don’t have enough time, when we don’t have dialogue, we’re just neglecting the community,” Winfrey-Carter said.
Mays expressed a similar sentiment, noting that there should have been a working session on the budget ahead of Thursday night’s vote.
“This is the closest during this three-month process that you’ve seen any kind of working session,” he said.
Mays added that he was abstaining during votes throughout the meeting because he thought the budget procedure was incomplete.
Mager responded to concerns about the process by saying that the staff within the city’s departments know how much money they need for the year.
“You have professionals who know more than I do within their own department, what they need and the money they need. And they did budget it that way,” she said. “A budget is a best guess and we do our best to figure out revenue, to figure out expenses.”
The councilmembers’ concerns followed others shared at a prior budget meeting on June 5, 2023, during which Burns had noted council’s questions could not be answered due to absent city administration officials.
At last night’s meeting, Burns said she was still awaiting those answers.
She said she had not yet received information from the city on how much money was in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) fund, how many lead service lines still need to be replaced, how much the city owes construction contractor WT Stevens, what the city’s pension liability is and how much money is left of Flint’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, among other asks.
To the pension liability question, Mager said that she didn’t know the exact answer, but that she did know that the only way to get the pension fund to 60% funded is to receive a promised $220 million from the state.
“We have applied for 170 [million], and there is talk in the state legislation of trying to get Flint the extra 50 [million],” she said.
Mager also said she did not yet know how much the city owes WT Stevens, and as for ARPA funds, she is working on a status report but there’s some information missing due to a glitch in the city’s software system.
Winfrey-Carter expressed further dissatisfaction with the FY 2024 budget because it did not include information on grant funds the city has access to.
Mager responded that she agreed with Winfrey-Carter’s concern, and if she remains in the CFO role next year, she will include grants in the next budget.