Flint, MI— Mayor Sheldon Neeley presented the $71-million FY 2021-22 proposed budget to the Flint City Council on March 1, calling it, “balanced” and “blessed,” but “fragile.”
Neeley said the previous budget predicted a deficit of $12 million for the FY22 budget, but that they were able to “fill the gap.” Still, he said, the City’s “decades-old problems remain.”
The proposed budget invests heavily in blight management and the Office of the Ombudsperson.
It provides additional funding for two new employees to be added to the blight budget for “increased blight management,” and to “improve response times.”
Expenditures for the Office of the Ombudsperson increased from $162,988 in FY20, to $250,000 for FY21, 22, and 23 per the new charter requirement.
The budget also includes additional money for a new applicant tracking system and background check program for potential hires for the Human Resources Department.
Neeley said the budget “protects police and fire staffing levels, no layoffs.” Public Safety makes up 59% of the General Fund expenditures.
There have been concerns across the country about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic would have on income tax revenues and City budgets. Neeley shared that in the first half of FY21, income tax revenue in Flint was down 6%, and withholding was down 14%.
In response to this issue occurring in many cities, the State of Michigan Department of Treasury proposed a one‐time relief payment capped at $70 million to 24 cities. Neeley said Flint will receive $2,596,804.
Other challenges Neeley said the City was facing with the budget had to do with the pension system, and the “raiding” of the water and sewer fund.
“Now this is a problem that has plagued this community for decades: transfers from our enterprise fund,” Neeley said. “This budget ends that. We will no longer raid the water and sewer fund, the enterprise fund, for transfers and supplement the shortfalls in our general fund operation.”
Neeley said that this budget puts the City into compliance with their pension contribution requirements mandated by the State, but we need to recognize that legacy costs have been draining the general fund.
In FY19 and FY20, the City’s pension obligation was $22 million. In FY21, that number ballooned to $32 million. Neeley said this number will continue to grow if “we don’t do something and act now.”
He said the pension system has liabilities of $546 million and assets of $158 million which puts it at only 29% funded.
“The City of Flint has one active employee for every six retirees. So we have one person putting in…to a category for six retirees,” Neeley said. “So we have to be able to figure out a way to make sure that you can continue to move our community forward.”
Council voted 7-2 to receive the Mayor’s budget. Per the Flint City Charter, the Mayor and City Council plan to hold a public hearing to receive input on the budget from the public between 10 and 20 business days after this presentation.
Mayor Neeley’s budget presentation and a link to the full proposed FY22 budget are available on the City of Flint website.
During a special city council meeting later that night, the council discussed outstanding city business from the previous council meeting.
The issue of a $500,000 change order for Rowe Professional Services came before the council for the fourth time after being on a committee meeting, a special affairs committee meeting, and the regular council meeting.
Rowe requested additional funding to continue project management services for lead service line replacement. The company entered into a contract with the City on March 11, 2019 in an amount not to exceed $2,138,735. City Administrator Clyde Edwards said at a previous meeting that the company would be out of money come March.
Council President Fields said she couldn’t vote “in good conscience” to delay the change order again. Councilman Allan Griggs said he wasn’t convinced yet that there was a reason for the company to receive more money.
The issue was again postponed to Wednesday’s finance committee meeting.
The council voted to set a public hearing to review and receive input on the City of Flint 2020-2021 Annual Action Plan on March 8, 2021 at 5:30 p.m.
According to the action plan document, its purpose is to “identify strategies for affordable housing, prevent homelessness, ensure fair housing, expand economic opportunities, improve neighborhoods, and more.”
The action plan can be viewed here.