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Flint city council adds budget money to prevent firefighter layoffs, but mayor may veto

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver could soon use her veto pen to strike down some changes the city council approved to the city budget on Monday night.

The city council tacked on a few amendments to the spending plan, including adding $1.7 million to the fire department budget.

The added money is intended to avoid deep cuts to the department and layoffs.   

The budget amendment puts the mayor in a difficult position.

“The bottom line is, we want public safety to be our priority and we also have to make sure that we’re being fiscally responsible,” Weaver told reporters before the council made the changes to the budget.

The mayor says her office is working on ways to avoid laying off firefighters.

Council President Herbert Winfrey is hopeful the mayor will be open to the added money.

“She’s going to be talking with the finance department and seeing what sense it makes,” says Winfrey. “And then she’ll base her decision on vetoing it or approving it based on those numbers.”

Some Flint city officials are wary of tapping the city’s cash reserves to pay for current staff, with retiree costs expected to jump in the next couple of years.   

Councilwoman Kate Fields says some council members are being “irresponsible” by saying the city can use money from the city’s cash reserves.

“We have pension liabilities that are coming up in the next couple of years, and if you don’t meet those liabilities, you’re out of business,” says Fields. 

About a half dozen Flint firefighterssat listening to the city council debate adding the money to keep them on the payroll. 

Flint Fire Chief Raymond Barton is concerned his firemen may get their hopes up based on Monday night’s city council vote.

“We could still come back a month from now and lay people off,” says Barton. 

City officials are optimistic, even if the mayor strips the added money for firefighters now, a solution can be found after the new fiscal year begins July 1st

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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