Mayor's cuts go
deep in Detroit budget plan
Jobs, benefits, services to go
April 13, 2005
BY M.L. ELRICK and MARISOL BELLO
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITERS
No one is safe and nothing is
sacred in the radical plan Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick outlined
Tuesday as part of his desperate bid to stave off a
Not even a McDonald's Happy Meal.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE MAYOR'S PROPOSAL
On Tuesday, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick presented a sweeping plan
to tackle the city's projected $300-million shortfall for
2005-06. Among the measures the mayor proposes:
The mayor said 754 city employees will lose their jobs,
remaining city workers will be asked to take a 10-percent
pay cut, and voters will be asked to approve a 2-percent tax
on fast food.
And, for the first time in more than 20 years, firefighters
will be cut. Kilpatrick said he will lay off 61, as well as
trim 38 paramedics and dismiss the current police academy
The mayor's austerity plan is the latest blow to a city that
already has endured closures and layoffs in the public and
parochial school systems, church closings, the seemingly
nonstop erosion of its tax base from fleeing businesses and
residents and bad publicity from local and national media.
But Kilpatrick said the plan -- which faces stiff opposition
from unions and, possibly, the City Council, which must
approve it -- is the only hope to eliminate a projected
$300-million deficit. He has proposed a $1.4-billion budget
for the 2005-06 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The mayor threatened that the only alternative to his plan
is more layoffs and deep cuts in city services.
"There is no more fat in city government," he told reporters
and editors at the Free Press after presenting his plan to
Even Kilpatrick called his plan, which calls for a major
consolidation of city departments, radical.
Not even the police are safe.
After three years of promising not to cut officers, he said:
"We won't be able to sustain this no-layoff approach in the
Police Department for those officers on the street if their
union doesn't come to the table and renegotiate their
benefits with us along with our other unions," he told the
Kilpatrick's fourth budget address since he took office in
2002 was his bleakest. After trying -- and failing -- over
the past two fiscal years to balance the city's budget as
revenues declined and health care and pension costs
ballooned, the mayor pitched a plan that calls for reducing
services and shedding operations he said the city can no
Kilpatrick, who has already closed the Belle Isle Zoo and
aquarium, said he would end general fund operating payments
used to help run the Detroit Zoological Institute, Historic
Ft. Wayne, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum and the Detroit
He said the city can save millions of dollars by maintaining
ownership of the facilities, but allowing nonprofit groups
already supporting the institutions to run them. The Detroit
Institute of Arts is run in a similar manner.
The mayor also said he hoped Cobo Center and the Detroit
Department of Transportation, which together receive more
than $100 million a year in city subsidies, would be run by,
or become part of, regional authorities by January.
He said the city would continue to provide financial
assistance to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African
American History because it is a newer facility and needs
more time to build private support. He said his budget calls
for giving $1.8 million next year to the financially
By consolidating city departments into seven units -- Public
Safety, Economic Development, Health & Human Services,
Municipal Services, Administrative Services, General
Services and Financial Services -- Kilpatrick said they will
be more focused and efficient.
He did not say how much money he expected to save by making
the changes, but added that it could take up to a year for
some of them to be completed.
First, however, he must convince council members to approve
changing the structure of city government.
Council members were receptive to the mayor's message
Tuesday, but said they were reserving judgment until they
had more time to scrutinize the plan.
Although council members generally do not see the plan until
the mayor presents it, Kilpatrick's team was working on it
so late that copies were not distributed to council members
until after he began his speech.
Council President Maryann Mahaffey interrupted him after a
minute or two and asked that he wait until copies arrived.
As they were handed out, Kilpatrick went back and started
his speech from the beginning.
Sheila Cockrel and Sharon McPhail were uncharacteristically
silent as their council colleagues quizzed Kilpatrick.
Cockrel said the presentation was light on substance.
"This is a very fragile fiscal document in a precarious
political environment," she said.
McPhail, who is running for mayor, said she was keeping an
She said that while Kilpatrick said he inherited a lot of
problems "one of the things I didn't hear was accepting
responsibility...all of the development projects he's taking
credit for were all started by Coleman Young or Dennis
Archer's deputy mayor, Freman Hendrix, said Kilpatrick's
proposal "does not come close to addressing the real budget
deficit of nearly $300 million."
Hendrix, who also is running for mayor, commended Kilpatrick
for consolidating and eliminating departments, but said the
mayor should have taken action sooner.
Irvin Corley, the council's fiscal analyst, said he thought
the mayor's proposals seemed to be moving the budget in the
right direction. He said the announced layoffs, the
consolidation of departments and the push to regionalize
DDOT were all encouraging signs.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," he said. "We are at the point
where we have to do something to avoid receivership."
But John Riehl, president of the American Federation of
State, County and Municipal Employees Local 207, said
Kilpatrick can't count on his support.
"The mayor's got his foot on Detroit and he's threatening
more cuts unless he gets his way with the unions," Riehl
said. "He's got a hard fight with us if he thinks he's going
to get a 10-percent cut in our wages."
Contact M.L. ELRICK at 313-223-3327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.