By Charles Sercombe
The suspense is over.
Last week we reported that a meeting this week about Hamtramck’s financial picture is the makings of a Halloween horror story.
It is, and so much more.
Let’s just say city officials are now whistling past the graveyard, hoping against hope that Hamtramck will still exist in some form as an independent city.
That may be overly-dramatic, but listening to the options laid out Monday night, it is a possible conclusion. How bad is it? Here’s how City Manager Bill Cooper and Financial Director Nevrus Navarro laid it out for the City Council during a special work session:
Even if a court forces Detroit to hand over the $3 million it is withholding in a dispute with Hamtramck over property taxes collected from GM’s Poletown plant, the city will still be $2 million in the hole within several months.
And if the Detroit payment doesn’t come through and the City Council gives Cooper the OK to dip into the city’s rainy day fund, that will only allow the city to meet payroll and pay bills for maybe another few months.
The options are few: Somehow convince the city’s public employee unions – especially the unions representing the police department – to take wage cuts and switch over to a much cheaper health insurance plan.
Or … wait for the state to intercede through receivership and allow the emergency financial manager to take charge. The manager’s options could lead to declaring the city bankrupt, which would then allow the city to break its contracts and farm out police and fire services.
What’s perhaps even worse is that Detroit is also facing a financial meltdown and the state itself has a $1.6 billion deficit. We are, as a region, suffering from one of the worst economic setbacks since the Great Depression.
And it appears our political leaders in the state are at a loss finding a solution to this mess.
Hamtramck could even face the possibility of being merged with Detroit and Highland Park, although how that would solve anything is anyone’s guess.
City officials have vowed to keep working on the problem.
For city employees, it may be wise to dust off that resume and begin looking for new work because if you are not out of a job within a year, you could very well be working through payless paydays.