By Charles Sercombe
State officials rejected Hamtramck’s budget deficit elimination plan and won’t loan the city $3 million to avoid payless paydays.
Instead, State Treasurer Andy Dillon told the city to get deeper contract concessions from city employees, including police officers and firefighters.
Acting City Manager Kyle Tertzag conceded at the city council meeting on Tuesday that his meeting with the state “didn’t go as we liked it.”
Tertzag said state officials told the city it has “Cadillac” labor contracts and that the state was not going to “fund the status quo.”
Matt Wyszczelski, the president of Hamtramck’s firefighter union, said he was told that the city needs to reduce the department’s budget by $1 million.
“That’s a lot of money to look for,” he said.
Wyszczelski said that it would come out to about $40,000 in cuts per firefighter. Although it’s a tall order, the union is willing to do its part.
“We understand the city is in a financial crisis, and we’ll do our part,” he said. “It’s times like this everyone has to tighten their belt.”
Tertzag said that while the state’s refusal to extend the loan was a setback, he is confident the budget will work out.
“I’m not the type of person who dooms and glooms it,” he said.
However, Sen. Bert Johnson didn’t hesitate from doing just that at Tuesday’s council meeting. He told the council that whatever the state has planned for Detroit will happen to Hamtramck and Highland Park.
All three cities are in a financial crisis, with Detroit being hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.
Johnson said that the state will likely appoint an emergency financial manager to take over Detroit. That move, he said, is a calculated way to put Detroit “on a fast track to bankruptcy.”
He said it’s the plan of state officials to “collapse local governments.”
“Nobody’s going to swoop down and save us,” Johnson said.
Johnson also alluded that the state’s ultimate strategy is to merge Hamtramck and Highland Park into Detroit.
One way to fight back, he said, is “to hold the governor accountable.”
“Let’s flex some muscle,” he added.
In a telephone interview the day after the council meeting, Mayor Karen Majewski said that’s not the scenario she’s hearing from state officials.
“The impression we got from the state is not to fold us into Detroit and Highland Park,” she said.
However, Majewski said what the state does expect from the city are “stern” financial measures.
“I can understand why they won’t give us money to fund a deficit,” she said.
If city officials expect to ward off further financial complication, they will have to work fast. It has been projected that the city will have a $3.5 million budget deficit by June.
There could even be a period of payless paydays before then.