By Charles Sercombe
By next January or February, city employees could face payless paydays.
Eventually, there could be a merger with another city for police and fire services.
By this time next year, the city could be bone dry, financially-speaking.
State receivership may be Hamtramck’s ultimate fate.
Those were some of the dire possibilities that City Manager Bill Cooper made at a special City Council meeting on Tuesday.
The city’s budget has been crippled by a dispute with Detroit over how much Hamtramck receives in tax revenue from GM’s Poletown plant. Long story short: Detroit has been withholding $3 million from last year and this year and there is no time in sight when the dispute will be settled – or that Detroit will agree to restore payments.
That loss of money, Cooper said, is the “prime offender” of why the city is running a $1 million deficit.
And if the city does not resolve its dispute with Detroit any time soon, Cooper will be forced to pay salaries and bills from the city’s $2 million rainy day fund.
So far, Cooper has been forced to order a handful of layoffs and pay cuts.
“We are into the muscle,” Cooper said of the cuts made so far. Next, he said, will be the proverbial bone.
Hamtramck, Cooper said, will head straight to state receivership “unless we get paid by Detroit. We cannot stop this.”
Cooper and some councilmembers recently met with the Detroit City Council to present their budget woes. Detroit councilmembers said they were unaware of Hamtramck’s dealings with the staff of Mayor Dave Bing.
Bing was recently interviewed by a WXYZ Channel 7 news reporter and said he was unaware of the situation. That was news to Cooper who said he has talked directly with Bing about the matter.
One could say that’s not a good sign.
Bing’s aloofness, if you can call it that, has also rubbed the Detroit Council wrong. Detroit’s councilmembers have complained that Bing’s administration does not share information and when it does, it does so at the last minute and demands immediate council approval on matters.
The council has retaliated by rejecting and rewriting Bing’s city budget.
What does all this bode for Hamtramck?
No city official wants to say it, but it looks like Hamtramck will have to rely on its close relationship with Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration and seek state assistance in the matter.
Cooper did say that going into receivership may not be a bad step to take because it opens the door to rewriting employee contracts and merging or contracting out services.