City may return to local control
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK – The state-appointed Receivership Transition Advisory Board voted June 20 to return decision-making powers to elected city officials, and will recommend Gov. Rick Snyder end the city’s receivership status.
State Treasury Department official Patrick Dostine said he thoroughly reviewed the city’s administrative and financial operations with Mayor Thomas Karnes, City Administrator Matthew Coppler and Finance Director Lisa Griggs in February.
“The city of Lincoln Park has addressed the review team’s findings and has increased its operational efficiency, it’s improved its financial stability and is progressing in economic development opportunities,” Dostine said.
Dostine said the city’s structural operating deficit in the general fund was addressed, the city out-performed year one of the emergency manager’s two-year budget and the 2016 audit overall fund balance was more than $3.4 million.
He said the city is using the adopted and amended budget as an effective management tool and has adopted a fund balance policy, and has made its required contributions to the pension fund, and it has developed a rolling capital improvement plan and a five-year financial operations plan.
“While the city must still deal with legacy costs, the city has made significant operational and financial progress, which puts it in a favorable position to successfully manage these challenges going forward,” Dostine said. “Moreover, other positive conditions exist within the city that reinforce a decision for release from receivership.”
RTAB member Jessica Thomas said in her experience, cities remain on a successful path by making solid decisions and continuing to follow a road map of the community’s goals and expectations.
“I would strongly advise or suggest that the operations or the decisions that you make will impact your budget,” she said. “I think that staying on a course where you are challenging and questioning yourselves, your decisions, your motives, those are the things that’s going to keep Lincoln Park sustainable.
“The moment that you deviate from an over-arching plan is the moment that you will be back in a situation where you’re wondering what happened. I would strongly advise that all of the things that have been set forth in this plan are very positive.”
Thomas said while it is nice to see progress, she urges officials to stay focused and stay the course.
“Deviation from that course can easily put you back in a situation of distress,” Thomas said. “I always say every community is one decision away from a deficit.”
She encouraged officials to make informed decisions, have a strategic plan and be reasonable, but also to trust city officials.
RTAB member Brendan Dunleavy cautioned city officials to take steps to maintain high property values, noting that the 2017 budget is based on a 2 percent increase.
RTAB member John Zech said he thought that City Administrator Matthew Coppler has put together a strong administrative team, and urged elected officials to give them the support to make tough recommendations.
“I know the council has pressure put on them, but they have come a long way in 18 months,” Zech said.
RTAB Chairman Kevin Bonds also commended city officials, praising Coppler and Griggs for their collective work in leading the city’s team.
“You have done an outstanding job of taking the bull by the horns and guiding your community on the pathway to success,” Bonds said. “Don’t rest on the laurels. Make sure you look at your infrastructure and your day-to-day operations, but most importantly the tax levies, and use those resources in a conservative, cautious manner.”
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)