By Andrew Krietz
Lansing Star staff writer
In light of Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed across-the-board cuts to state government, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero followed up with cuts of his own.
To eliminate the city’s projected $20 million budget shortfall for the upcoming following fiscal year, Bernero said at the March 28 city council meeting that drastic cuts are necessary while striving to preserve a quality of life citizens deserve and expect.
“These are, without question, the hardest decisions that we’ve ever had to make,” he said. “We have to play the cards we are dealt.”
Under Bernero’s plan, residents could expect city officials to lay off 78 police department positions, 71 from the fire department, eliminate neighborhood watch programs, reduce 20 percent of available officers for street patrol and close three fire stations.
The proposed, exhaustive list of cuts is something to face moving forward, said Jessica Yorko, Lansing 4th Ward councilmember.
“The news delivered by the mayor is pretty sobering,” she said. “It’s time for us to band together more than we ever have before … (and try) to find the positive side of our situation.”
For Yorko, there might be some silver lining.
On May 3, Lansing residents will vote whether to raise property taxes by 4 mills to 19.44 from 15.44 mills toward the funding of police, fire and road maintenance. The increase could generate $8.5 million for the city next year, according to the Lansing State Journal.
The owner of a $100,000 home, for example, would see an increase of about $200 on their home’s taxable value each year.
Residents can learn more about the proposal at two public forums at 6:30 p.m. April 12 at Southside Community Center Auditorium, 5815 Wise Road, and at 6:30 p.m. April 14 at Pattengill Middle School Auditorium, 616 Marshall St.
Bernero said his proposed budget cuts would be reversed if the millage passes. He also used current city employees as an example of working though difficult times — one in four workers are no longer employed and those who remain have been picking up the slack, he said.
The mayor also noted his own sacrifices during a difficult budget session by paying more in health insurance and giving up a courtesy car.
Cam Teague, a Lansing Community College student and city resident said although the cuts are drastic, he doesn’t feel too worried about his safety within the community.
“At least where I live, crime is not something I worry about on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “I just hope those in charge can continue to make the area safe even with less officers on patrol.”