Some fancy footwork, so to speak, was needed to keep Hamtramck’s auto theft unit intact.
And it worked out all right this week, but the scramble to save the unit underscores a deeper financial crisis facing Hamtramck. Back in August, it looked like the city would have to disband the auto theft unit because it couldn’t afford to kick in $80,000 as part of a matching grant for two investigators.
A state insurance fund pays the other half of the salaries.
On Tuesday, police officials won back the grant, and City Manager Bill Cooper has figured out a way to offset the city’s cost.
With an auto theft rate of about 400 vehicles a year, it’s critical that Hamtramck has two investigators dedicated solely to catching auto thieves. But the bigger concern is how can Hamtramck – and so many other communities – continue to scrap by as tax revenue continues to shrink while at the same time costs keep going up?
Besides those two cross-current revenue issues, Hamtramck is facing a $3.3 million budget deficit, thanks to a dispute with the City of Detroit over a tax revenue agreement regarding GM’s Poletown plant.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s administration is withholding money from last year and this year while the dispute heads to court. In the meantime, Hamtramck has been forced to lay off city appointees and employees, and the city could even face bankruptcy by next January.
The renewal of the auto theft unit is indeed good news. The bad news is that Hamtramck is facing uncertain – and possibly very shaky – financial times in the coming year. Losing the auto theft unit may seem like a small matter if things don’t turn around.