With city’s finances getting worse, city employees must step up

We don’t mean to keep beating the same drum over and over.

But Hamtramck’s future is at stake – at least the Hamtramck that we all know today.

The city is facing insolvency, a fancy way of saying going broke, with not enough money to pay the bills or meet employee payroll. City Manager Bill Cooper said we need to come up with an extra $3 million in revenue.

That amount of money could come from a combination of cuts and savings. There are no significant new revenue streams to tap into.

But there is one significant savings the city could realize to the tune of $1-$2 million a year. We don’t mean to target or harp on city employees, but the fate of the city is largely in their hands. If Hamtramck doesn’t come up with a way to balance its budget and have enough cash on hand at any given time to pay the bills, there is a very good chance the state will step in and appoint an emergency financial manager to take over.

If that happens — and it could within a few months – there is also a good chance police and fire service would be merged with Detroit, Highland Park or the county.

Do city employees really want that?

We doubt it, but we also think some employees think this is another instance of crying wolf, of us over-dramatizing the city’s financial health. In fact, some might even think it’s all a ruse to break contracts or force major concessions.

Well, go ahead and stick your head in the sand.

The sad truth is things are changing rapidly in this region and in this country. The country is in a deep recession. Michigan is basically in a depression. Manufacturing jobs are gone and won’t be coming back.

Local governments everywhere are going broke. Heck, Pontiac just disbanded its police department and contracted that service out to the Oakland County Sheriffs. The savings for Pontiac is projected to be $2 million a year.

How can Hamtramck’s employee unions save their jobs?

It’s actually easy and not really a major concession compared to what other folks have been forced to give up.

Here it is: Agree to a less expensive insurance plan and agree to higher co-pays.

You want your job? Then do what millions of other workers have had to do: agree to concessions.

Right now our city employees have what’s considered the “Cadillac” of health insurance plans via Blue Cross. If employees agreed to take a step down, the city could reap a huge savings – and gain a real possibility of surviving this economic crash.

City employees should also consider the huge number of private sector employees forced to take cuts in their health insurance plans and an equally large number of workers who have been totally cut off from health insurance.

It isn’t a pretty picture.

But it sure beats being unemployed with zero health coverage.

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