By ANDREA POTEET
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – Few Downriver cities have undergone as much change in the past year as Allen Park.
Despite first asking for and then contesting a state financial review, the most drastic change was the that review’s end result – the appointment of an emergency financial manager to the city by Gov. Rick Snyder in October.
Since taking the helm of the city’s troubled finances, Emergency Financial Manager Joyce Parker has sought resident and council input on her plan to close the city’s expected $4 million budget shortfall this fiscal year and its financial operating plan, both expected at the end of the month.
With a recent Plante and Moran estimate that the city could again run out of money by as soon as April, Parker said the biggest issue facing the city now and in her tenure there has been cash flow.
“The biggest problem is trying to stabilize the city’s cash requirements as far as cash flow,” Parker said. “Part of what I’ve been doing is trying to put together a deficit elimination plan and financial operation plan for the city to get a fairly good understanding of what the cash requirements are. That’s the challenge right now, money to operate.”
She said she has received cooperation from the community and city officials as she attempts to identify solutions to the city’s financial crisis.
“I think the City Council has been fairly open about having the state involved,” Parker said. “They recognize that with that will come certain resources to assist with the problem currently pending.”
Looking ahead into 2013, Parker said some of the major hurdles she will face will include deciding what to do with the failed movie studio property, which the general fund subsidizes for $2.5 million a year in debt service payments.
That plan, she said, may include relocating City Hall. Ideas in the past have including selling the City Hall building and relocating it to the former movie studio.
“As we move forward, the other area to be addressed is City Hall,” she said, “whether it will remain at its current location or whether it is more feasible to sell the property as part of addressing the Southfield Lease Property and relocate City Hall.
Retiree health care costs, which also run about $2.5 million a year, as well as current employee health care, also must be addressed, to reduce costs to the city and make them fair to employees, she said.
In addition to the strain of the movie studio property, the city’s finances have been further impacted by falling property values. One ray of light may be found there, as taxable values fell only 3 percent for this year, as opposed to 11 percent last year.
“Values are beginning to start increasing,” Parker said, “but it’s a slow process. It’s not going to be something that will take place overnight. I do see things getting better, but I think it will take time.”