State Budget Cut Proposals Hit Home In Muskegon Heights

Andrew Trzaska | March 1, 2011

Specific state budget cut proposals became hot topics at Monday’s Muskegon Heights school board and city council meetings, with each body searching for solutions

At City Hall, changes in revenue-sharing got the attention of Mayor Darrell Paige and the city council.

92nd State House Representative Marcia Hovey-Wright briefed the city Monday on recent bills passed in Lansing.

In regards to how much money the city may receive from the state, Hovey-Wright noted that statutory dollars would be eliminated by the State, reducing what they received by over $700,000.

The other type of revenue sharing, known as constitutional revenue sharing, was actually increasing by 4% according to Hovey-Wright.  However, that small increase would not counteract the 100% reduction in the statutory funding.

Hovey-Wright and City Manager Natasha Henderson agreed that these reductions hurt urban neighborhoods and the working poor the hardest, because statutory revenue sharing goes to communities hard-hit by unemployment and reduced tax bases.

Minutes later at the school board meeting, a reduction in dollars-per-student received from the State of Michigan was cause for concern.

The State is set to cut $470 dollars for each pupil in any given public school system.

On top of this, the State appears to have sent out an email to districts statewide today saying that a 5% penalty could be put on districts that did not pay into retirement accounts on time.

Superintendent Dr. Dana Bryant laid out the numbers – if the already financially strapped district had to pay these late fees, it could amount to $12,000 a day.
Dr. Dana Bryant’s concern was not simply focused on his district alone; his explained that the whole state’s education system would be put under serious stress if many of the proposed measures were passed.

“If in fact a number of those cuts were to take place it would devastate public education in the entire state of Michigan.”

Bryant shared numerous resources with the board on Monday and urged them to think hard on ideas for saving money.

Board vice president Ronald Jenkins urged his colleagues to be disciplined in their committee meetings, cooperate with each other and the superintendent and be proactive on finding solutions in response to the inevitable state budget cuts.

“We’re in a dire strait right now.  We can’t pretend it’s not happening.  We need to make sure we’re all on the same page.”

Hovey-Wright’s briefing to the Muskegon Heights city council included one other detail that may affect both the city government and the school district: A bill that passed the State House Thursday could create numerous czar-like positions called emergency financial managers, given extraordinary powers to make governmental changes in fiscally troubled cities statewide.

These managers could be given the power to consolidate services, fire elected officials, replace school administrators, dissolve pension boards, or rewrite budgets.
A preliminary list of towns that might be assigned an emergency financial manager is circulating in Lansing, but Muskegon Heights was not on the list Hovey-Wright said she looked at.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst