By Charles Sercombe
If the City of Allen Park is any guide, Hamtramck can expect to be under the financial supervision of the state for another six months.
Last week the state Treasury Department announced that Allen Park was no longer under the control of a Receivership Transition Advisory Board.
In other words, full local control has been restored to Allen Park.
Hamtramck has been under the supervision of an RTAB for two years, but recently that board agreed to take a reduced role in looking over the city’s finances.
That is the first step toward being declared free of state oversight.
In Allen Park, the RTAB remained in a reduced role for six months until last week’s announcement.
Like Hamtramck, Allen Park had several final directives to meet that were left over by its emergency manager. But there was one thing it didn’t accomplish, said Mayor William B. Matakas: Finding a way to meet future pension obligations.
But Allen Park was able to win voter approval of a 10-year millage to fund public safety, and also a 10-year millage to pay for road maintenance, among other financial accomplishments.
Funding the city’s pension is also going to be a challenge for Hamtramck, which it is predicted that in three years the city won’t be able to fully fund it. The state has assigned financial experts to help Hamtramck overcome this challenge.
It is not known what progress the city has made under this arrangement.
Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled state legislature is moving toward overhauling the pension system for police officers, firefighters and teachers by shifting their pension to a 401k plan.
If Hamtramck’s RTAB does leave in six months, that would coincide with the expiration of the city manager’s contract.
As of now, it does not appear City Manager Katrina Powell would receive a bare majority support to extend her contract. Under her management, the city has been able to balance its budget and grow a $4 million surplus.
Powell was hired two years ago by the city’s former emergency manager.
At last month’s RTAB meeting there was a hint that the board may play a role in keeping Powell on.
RTAB member Mark Stema credited Powell for the city’s financial stability, and questioned what would happen if the council replaced her.
“We’re comfortable with the way the city’s going because Katrina’s here. I mean, it’s almost February (and) her contract’s up at the end of June.
“What’s their plan?” he said in an apparent reference to the city council.
“I mean, without knowing their plan, and stuff like that, I don’t know if I feel comfortable stepping back yet, because, are they just going to let it run out and promote somebody without negotiat(ing)– you know, I have concerns about that.”
The chairperson of the RTAB, Deborah Roberts, said the board can change the emergency manager’s final orders.
“That’s where we can amend the order, and so we can require that there are certain things that are brought before this board,” Roberts said.
“Or we can prohibit other things from happening. So that’s where we’ll need to look at the EM’s order, and figure out which things need to be amended, and at what levels.”