Flint, MI—Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley shared his proposed 2024 budget, which he said prioritizes public safety and city services, meets pension fund requirements, and leaves property taxes, utility costs, and fees surrounding waste collection and street lighting unchanged for Flint residents in the coming year.
On Wednesday, March 8, Neeley came before Flint City Council’s finance committee to share his administration’s proposed fiscal year 2023 to 2024 (FY 23/24) budget.
The mayor opened by saying that Flint is not “out of the woods yet” on its structural deficit, caused largely by pension fund obligations growing while the city’s residential taxpayer base shrank over the last decade. Nevertheless, he said, his proposed FY 23/24 budget is “balanced,” although the proposed plan calls for roughly $66.7 million in general fund spending and only $63.7 million in anticipated general fund revenues.
“We still are trying to restore confidence with the public,” Neeley told the council. “But this budget is a sound, balanced budget.”
During his presentation, Neeley noted that some recent wins for the city include a lowered unemployment rate between 2020 and 2022, which has translated to “over 1,000 new jobs added to Flint’s taxable rolls” and therefore more revenue coming in to support public services.
Additionally, he pointed to an infusion of state funding to shore up Flint’s ailing pension system, which will keep more general fund dollars going toward city services while still fulfilling the city’s ballooning pension obligations.
“This is talking about how we’re going to be able to continue to balance our budget and provide long term stability in which we deserve in the city of Flint,” Neeley said of the state’s pension system support program.
Though the mayor’s presentation remained high-level, Neeley outlined that his 2024 priorities were to “enhance public safety and city services” while also ensuring that residents do not see increased property taxes, utility payments or fees for waste collection and street lighting over the next two years.
As far as enhancement goes, the mayor noted a roughly $2 million investment in salaries and wages, largely for fire and police department personnel, and proposed offsetting some of that investment by scaling back supply and operating costs.
Neeley noted that his plan budgets for a total of 594 full time city employees in the coming year.
He also said “key investments” aside from public safety wages include funding for blight elimination and community and senior centers.
“We want to invest in recreational opportunities for seniors and young people alike,” Neeley explained, pointing to spaces like Berston Field House and Hasselbring and Brennan Senior Centers.
As for water payments, the mayor noted that while the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) is planning to increase rates to the Flint region, “no costs are being passed through to our residents, so there will be no rate increase for the proposed budget.”
Neeley concluded his presentation by asking council members to work with his administration and department heads “to provide a good life” for Flint residents.
“We have to maintain a serious, open mind as we look at government and the way that we work together,” he said before opening the floor to questions.
But instead of asking questions about the mayor’s 78-page proposed budget, the council voted 6-3 to end the presentation without making a single inquiry.
Council President Allie Herkenroder, Council Vice President Ladel Lewis and Councilmembers Quincy Murphy, Judy Priestley, Dennis Pfeiffer and Eva Worthing voted in favor of ending the presentation. Councilmembers Tonya Burns, Jerri Winfrey-Carter, and Eric Mays voted against.
“As we get ready to end this meeting, and based upon the way that special order went, I’m appalled,” Mays said after the vote, calling out Pfeiffer by name for putting forward the motion to close the presentation out. “Six council people, on a multimillion dollar budget, would vote to silence [the] council from asking questions. I want the public to understand what just happened here. I think it’s appalling. I think it’s reckless and irresponsible.”
Priestley, who chairs the council’s finance committee, noted that there would be budget hearings with department heads on two Saturdays in April, though those dates still needed to be finalized.
The mayor’s presentation slides also note that there will be a public hearing to gather input on his proposed budget, but no exact date was provided for that hearing either.
Last year, Flint City Council passed Mayor Neeley’s proposed FY 22/23 budget without amendment. According to Flint’s city charter, the council has until the “first Monday in June,” or June 5 this year, to adopt the city’s FY 23/24 budget.