One day after Gov. Rick Snyder appointed a 6-member team to conduct a financial review of Detroit’s finances, Mayor Dave Bing rolled out a “revenue enhancement” plan estimated to bring the city $50 million in revenue.
But at this point, after years on financial insolvency, many are wondering if the city’s new collection initiative is “too little to late”.
City and State officials have warned that a wrong move at this crucial time in Detroit’s history could land the city in bankruptcy court.
But here’s the twist: Under state law, the city must first be appointed an Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) before being eligible to file for bankruptcy. Snyder’s review team’s findings could result in him appointing an EFM to Detroit, someone who would take away the Bing Administration and the City Council’s power to make financial decisions.
Just a month ago, city and state officials were squabbling over the release of $30 million in escrowed state funds. Now that the city has reached the milestones of an agreement that was contingent on the $30 million drawdown, the city is not in much better shape.
During the drawn out “milestones” tug of war between the mayor’s office and city council members, the mayor’s talking points made it sound like the $30 would stave off layoffs.
Turns out, layoffs are just one of the measures the city has to take in order to move not toward financial solvency but just to keep afloat.
One thing that’s different now is that City residents and business owners face tougher tax collection efforts now that the city has hired private collection agencies to go after delinquent accounts. No one is safe, not even the mighty Illitches who owe more than 1.5 million in taxes.
The city estimates that it could gain nearly $20 million in tax collection initiatives annually if stricter collection is enforced.
That begs the question: why were these collection measures not taken sooner?
The answer is a complex one that boils down to the fact that the city, until recent contracts with private firms, did not have the capacity to go after its debtors, Bing says.
As the city keeps skimming its payroll, there are less people doing work.
“Because of the loss of so many people—we had almost 14, 00 people when we came into office now we 9,700 people—we need some help on the personnel standpoint so we’re going to the outside and getting some outside firms to come in and help us. They are not going to be permanent.”
Meanwhile, the city plans to lay off 500 more workers in early 2013 mostly through attrition and retirement according to CFO Jack Martin.
Still, is this too little too late, Mr. Mayor?
“It’s too soon to say,” Bing said Wednesday. “We’re not throwing in the towel. Contrary to what a lot of people may believe there’s a lot of good things we have done. I think when we lay this plan out it’s going to surprise a lot of people. This is not a ‘get tough’ stance on anybody. It’s fairness and being correct.”
At this point Detroiters can only wait and see. Hopefully, people will get the surprise Bing looks forward to.
Every week is a new start. A new chance to get it right. The weekend reset button kicks in and by Monday hopefully things look a little better. At least that’s the case for the political climate in the City of Detroit.
Last week this time the fur was flying around a lawsuit that challenged the legality of the consent agreement. Since then the lawsuit was tossed, and the City Council immediately appointed the remaining members of the 9-meember financial advisory team. The team is set to turnaround city finances as part of the controversial consent agreement with the state. Phew. A lot can change in a week.
Looking at the complete list of appointees, the first thing I noticed was that many of them, seven out of nine are not from Detroit. Board members hail from the Metro Detroit suburbs such as Novi, Bloomfield Hills, Franklin, Birmingham and so on.
As a Detroiter, my knee-jerk response was "These are outsiders!" But after setting aside the involuntary Detroit-centric mentality, this actually seems promising. Speaking of new starts and clean slates, why not get outside opinions on city finances? Detroit has been mismanaging money for years and to put it nicely, "insiders" haven't been doing a great job at holding the city together.
There comes a point when we have to stop pointing fingers as citizens and stay engaged in the turnaround process by not only holding these board members accountable, but also by holding ourselves accountable for our own city. We have to shrug the "us vs. them" mentality that too often stifles progress.
Ut dignissim aliquet nibh tristique hendrerit. Donec ullamcorper nulla quis metus vulputate id placerat augue eleifend. Aenean venenatis consectetur orci, sit amet ultricies magna sagittis vel. Nulla non diam nisi, ut ultrices massa. Pellentesque sed nisl metus. Praesent a mi vel ante molestie venenatis.
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the Michigan Chronicle Digital Daily newsletter!
- Duggan Court of Appeals Decision (1)
- Medical Marijuana Illinois: Veto Session Could Make Legal Weed A Reality (1)
- President Obama Hosts Father’s Day Luncheon At White House (1)
- Democrat: IRS Manager Denies Targeting Of Conservative Groups (1)
- Detroit Area Has Strong Legacy With African American Dealers (1)