I’m beginning to wonder if spring is really right around the corner. I’m not sure, but I do know the City of Lansing budget process is. I will keep this blog updated after each budget presentation just in case you are not able to view it on cable television.
First, I want to report on the recent events regarding the mayor’s, clerk’s and city council's 20% “salary adjustment.” I am disheartened that the raise went through when so many of our folks are struggling. Statistics for Lansing show that:
One in two of our children in our city are living below poverty level. Twenty-nine percent of the households in our city are living below the poverty level (compared with 17% statewide). One out of every 618 homes in Lansing are in foreclosure (this is a higher ratio than Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Pontiac and many other cities in Michigan (RealtyTrac). An LSJ article written on September 15, 2014, states that Lansing remains among the poorest capital regions in the country. At the last Mobile Food Pantry, Lansing gave out 10,000 tons of food to the needy in our city.
Families in Lansing have yet to fully recover from the Great Recession. Many have lost their jobs and are working at much lower wages than before. Some haven’t seen pay raises in years. According to the LSJ article of March 24, 2015, “Lansing’s median household income in 2000 was $47,000, when adjusted for inflation, it fell to just over $36,000 in 2013—more than a 20% decline due to Michigan’s long-struggling economy in that period." I called some of the cities that were cited by Ms. Dunbar during the council meeting to see what the salaries for their elected officials were. I found that in Lansing, council members are paid at a higher rate than other cities our size. Also, the Clerk is paid at a higher rate than other cities our size. In fact, he now makes the same as our County Clerk. It was difficult to find comparison for the mayor, as most cities our size have city managers.
I think we are headed in the right direction. I just don’t think we are anywhere near where we need to be and should not be taking an increase in pay.
I am proud of my colleagues that stood up and said no to the 20 percent pay increase. Thank you Judi Brown-Clarke, Vince Delgado, Carol Wood, and Jessica Yorko.
Beginning in July, I will be writing a monthly check (dividing my $4000.00 into 12 payments) to the Lansing Food Bank. I want my share to go to those that are struggling. You may check each month with the Food Bank and hold me accountable, should you think I’m not keeping my word.
We are moving toward the budget. At first glance, I see that we are placing $500,000 into the rainy day fund. That is not nearly enough. I have already found where we can get another $200,000 (another 40%) and bump that figure up. We need three to six months savings to run this city should we find ourselves is calamity. This should prove to be another interesting budget year.
Is it just me? I think we must begin to have long-term vision and work in wisdom not on a whim.