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Detroit passes new budget with $348 million in cuts

Detroit skyline seen from Windsor, Ontario, across the Detroit River.
flickr user Bernt Rostad
Detroit skyline seen from Windsor, Ontario, across the Detroit River.

The Detroit City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a new city budget for the city’s upcoming fiscal year. It included $348 million in cuts.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said the budget is balanced, but the COVID-19 pandemic made deep cuts necessary.

“If this pandemic continues longer than the end of this year, then we’re going to have to make more cuts. If things ease earlier, we may be able to restore some things,” Duggan said. “But right now, we think we have a very conservative approach.”

Duggan said the new budget protects retiree pensions, first responders, and the city bus system. It makes deep cuts to parks and recreation, and the city’s once-massive demolition program. Duggan said the city also dipped into its rainy day fund, while leaving a minimum $50 million balance.

Under legislation passed during Detroit’s bankruptcy, the city could return to State Financial Review Commission oversight if it began running deficits.

Duggan said he’s determined not to let that happen. “We are never again going to let somebody come in here as an emergency manager,” he said.

Detroit City Councilwoman Janee Ayers chairs the Council’s budget, finance, and audit committee. She said despite the financial challenges facing Detroit, lawmakers and members of Duggan’s administration came together to work out the budget.

“This is what it looks like to want to be collaborative. This is what it looks like to want to move your city in the proper direction,” Ayers said.

Ayers said the new budget, which goes into effect July 1, protects basic services for Detroiters.

“You still deserve to have your trash picked up,” Ayers said. ”You still deserve to make sure that the vacant lot that may be next to you gets mowed. We need to make sure that we have public safety and first responders fully staffed and working, and healthy to be there. And I think that we were able to accomplish that in this budget process.”

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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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