By Summer Ballentine
Mason Times staff writer
With Gov. Rick Snyder’s recently announced budget, the city of Mason might see substantial budget cuts in the upcoming fiscal year.
After about 18 years as a city councilman, this budget “is probably going to be the most challenging budget I’ve ever had to work with,” Mayor Leon Clark said.
Officials also are worried about the potential impact of Senate Bill 34. Although the bill has not been passed, city authorities are taking action. City Administrator Marty Colburn recently wrote to to the state legislature detailing the impact the end of the personal property tax might have on the city budget. Money from property taxes constitutes about 10 percent of the city budget, he said. The 2010-11 operating budget for the city of Mason was about $11.2 million.
“We understand that there’s a burden on business and even on cities, however there are the ramifications,” Colburn said. “With the stroke of a pen, (this will have) devastating effects.”
Although “the governor’s plan may even bankrupt some municipalities,” Mason has been conservative in planning its budget and will survive despite lack of state support, Clark said.
“We’ve been fortunate over the years and we don’t depend a whole lot on revenue sharing,” he said. “Over the years we’ve been very conservative, and when other communities were really struggling with budgets a couple years ago we were doing fine. We (will) continue to monitor (the budget) and continue to be conservative this year.”
Public service departments, such as the Mason Police Department, also face budget cuts. Although the city’s budget is due in mid-March, the department has been working for weeks to prepare in anticipation of cuts. The city administrator and the finance director, who work together to outline the budget, have asked the city’s public service departments to write their own budgets with a 10 percent cut from last year.
But until the state legislature releases the budget in May, any work done on the budget is guesswork, said Police Chief John Stressman.
“We’re anticipating cuts, but we don’t know at what level yet,” he said. “It’s an evolving situation. It all depends on the governor’s budget (and) what the revenue sharing forecasts are and what the revenues to the city are gong to be from the tax base.”
But despite cuts to the budget, Mason still will be a safe place to live, said Mason resident Cheryl How.
“This is a very tight community and they’ll do they very best they can to keep the tax dollars (and) to use them wisely,” she said. “The city is well protected itself – the city has a wonderful police and fire department.”