By Charles Sercombe
Hamtramck’s new budget year can be viewed as either balanced, or $3 million in the red.
City officials are banking on an emergency state loan worth $3 million to get through the next several months.
But that begs a bigger question. How in the heck is the city going to pay back that loan?
The hope is to get major contract concessions from police and fire unions, as well as provide public safety services to Highland Park. But all of this seems to be up in the air as city officials scramble to find a solution.
Perhaps it’s telling that at Tuesday’s council meeting there was no discussion of the proposed budget, but the council spent nearly an hour talking about modifying the city’s ordinance regulating ice cream trucks.
Maybe Councilmember Cathie Gordon summed it up best.
“It (the budget) is not realistic. It’s a waste of time,” she told The Review.
Acting City Manager Erik Tungate said that despite the financial hardships facing the city, the new budget (which starts on July 1) was trimmed by $600,000, from $18.2 million to $17.6 million.
The majority of the savings came from a state-imposed requirement to cap the amount cities can contribute to the health plans for public employees.
That alone saved $441,429, said Tungate.
In a budget statement, Tungate pulled no punches.
“The City of Hamtramck is at a crossroads,” he said. “While our costs have increased, our revenues have dropped off a cliff.”
Having said that, Tungate said he is confident the city will turn around.
“I have no doubt that we will rise as one, and put this tough time behind us,” he said. “We have the vision, we have the strategy, we have the team, we have the partnerships that matter and interests in the possibilities. All that is needed is the will and courage to make the dream a reality. We have that will and courage.”
And if that fails, the city will likely face being taken over by a state-appointed emergency financial manager for the second time within 12 years.