By ANDREA POTEET
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – The city’s emergency financial manager is still formulating her plan to get the city out of its $6 million deficit, but some steps have already been made.
During a council study session Tuesday, Emergency Financial Manager Joyce Parker updated residents and city council members on her progress and asked for input about several issues she intends to take into account while drafting the plan.
Since being appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder in October, Parker has inacted two directives: slashing the pay and benefits of city council members by half and requiring prior approval for overtime for city employees unless in the case of emergencies.
That last one was a sticking point with some councilors, who asked for clarification of the term “emergencies,” as the Police and Fire departments, who respond to emergencies regularly, make up the bulk of city overtime payments.
Parker responded that department heads will have to demonstrate the necessity of overtime hours that were worked without first being approved by her.
At the meeting, Parker also presented the results of a survey passed out at her first town hall meeting the week prior and completed by 100 residents who attended the event. The survey results showed that a majority of respondants, 58 percent, would like to see cuts to employee health care to save money.
Parker said the survey showed a “clear hesitancy” to cut staff and programs in any departments, but areas of willingness in descending order were Parks and Recreation, Building and Engineering, Fire, Public Service, and Police.
The survey also askeresidents about their ideas for the failed movie studio property, with the majority of the residents saying they would like to see a warehouse store or another retail development there. Parker said she intends to use the survey results to help draft her plan.
Parker said part of the plan is to move forward with a $2 million emergency loan from the state applied for prior to her appointment but put on hold by the state until it knew whether an EFM would be assigned to the city. Plante & Moran’s Carl Johnson has predicted that the city will once again run out of money by February.
“There is a feeling that we need to move forward with the application for the emergency loan in order to have funding in place until other changes are made to balance the city’s budget,” Parker said. “If we’re really talking about running out of money by February, I would estimate it would take all of January to get the loan through.”
Parker said depending on her plan, she may ask for more than the original $2 million. Johnson said more than $2 million will be needed for the costs associated with laying off employees, if Parker chooses that direction. Fire and Police cuts, for example, could cost the city as much as $1 million for unemployment and other benefits.
“The big push is February, we will run out,” Johnson said. “We will run out of money. The $2 million doesn’t get us to June (the end of the fiscal year), that just buys us another month or two.”
Parker also plans to conduct an audit of staff and contracts, to find out whether all departments are correctly staffed and all staff and dependants for whom the city pays insurance are entitled to it.