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Bing lays out proposed budget to preserve "essential" services

Detroiters can expect increased fees and reduced services—and the city’s deficit will still keep growing.

At least that’s the scenario Mayor Dave Bing outlines in his proposed budgetfor the 2013-14 fiscal year.

This proposal actually cuts much less from the budget—about $36 million—than the prior year. It focuses on more or less stabilizing “essential city services,” like public safety and transportation.

One budget line that will take a direct hit: Detroit City Council, which will lose about 30% of its current $11 million budget under Bing’s plan.

Bing says Council members really only need one staff member each. If they need more, he suggests they can “borrow” from the executive branch.

“If they need a lawyer…take a lawyer. If they need a finance person, take a finance person,” Bing said. “But each Council member does not need their own staff for all of those functions.”

But Council members argue the cuts could prevent them from performing charter-mandated functions. They also wonder why Council is targeted when it accounts for only about 1% of the city’s total general services budget.

But even with these cuts, the city’s deficit is still expected to grow to more than $380 million.

“Getting the most out of city operations with sharply-reduced funding means that we CANNOT reduce the city’s $327 million accumulated operating deficit during Fiscal Year 2014,” Bing said.

This is the first budget process with emergency manager Kevyn Orr in office. Orr has to sign off on the final budget.

Bing said he hopes Orr focuses his efforts on restructuring Detroit’s long-term debt, and leaves most of the decision-making to the city’s elected officials.

“He’s not here to run the city, day to day,” Bing said. “That’s not his strength. His expertise is in another area…and that’s an area that everybody’s been saying if we don’t get our arms around that, everything else is for naught.”

An Orr spokesman says the emergency manager hopes to leave the budget details to Bing and Council—so long as they stay within state-approved revenue estimates.

On the heels of Bing’s presentation,Orr released an orderauthorizing Bing and the Council to conduct the city’s day-to-day business—but stressed all their decisions require his written approval.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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