FY17 & FY18 Budget Presentation April 4, 2016 (Flint, Mich) Mayor Karen Weaver went before Flint City Council today to present her proposed operating budget for Flint for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The budget illustrates how the man-made water disaster has impacted the City not only causing health related concerns, but the lead water crisis has also given the City’s financial situation a black eye.
The proposed budget identifies a deficit in the City’s Water and Sewer Fund projected at nearly $35 million due to factors including water rate litigation and the official declaration of the water emergency.
“We have serious concerns about the water and sewer fund for obvious reasons,” said Mayor Weaver. “The instability in the water fund is a result of decisions made on a number of levels, including the courts and my decision to declare a water emergency because I was not confident in the product residents were paying for.”
Much to the relief of residents, Mayor Weaver stated “While we are challenged financially in the water and sewer fund, I will not ask the citizens of Flint to pay for a product we still aren’t convinced is safe to use and consume.”
The City is looking to a number of sources to provide much needed funds, including national and local private organizations as well as the state and federal government. A federal package, put together by Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters with bipartisan support includes an initial $70 million from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Fund that could grow, if Flint is approved for additional dollars. If passed by Congress, the package would also give Flint $100 million from the federal Drinking Water State Resolving Fund.
Gov. Snyder has asked Michigan lawmakers to appropriate $195 million for water infrastructure, health services, and economic renewal in Flint, but so far only $30 has been approved. Mayor Weaver said the City could help off-set some of the expenses and loss of revenue if state and federal dollars start flowing soon.
“Please know my administration is doing everything possible to secure resources to meet the City’s and residents’ needs,” Mayor Weaver said. “We are committed to improving the quality of life in Flint. We are committed to being a voice for everyone in this community.”
During the budget presentation, the City’s Finance Director, Jody Lundquist, said the numbers show Flint’s financial situation was on a path to recovery until the water crisis occurred. Now, due to concerns and questions about the quality of the City’s drinking water, many residents are not paying their utility bills. Lundquist stressed that utility bills include not only the cost of customer’s water usage and a portion of what the city spends to treat and distribute the water, but they also include sewer fees. “The operation of the City’s sewer system has not been impacted by the water crisis, said Lundquist. The city is still doing what’s necessary to provide residents with proper sewer services and should be able to recover the costs through billing. Lundquist said it would help the City greatly if residents would at least pay the sewer portion of their bill.
Mayor Weaver also noted she is working to create a new position in City Hall, which will initially be funded with dollars from a private foundation. The Chief Public Health Advisor would work to strengthen the health infrastructure in Flint to better address the growing number of health issues residents are being faced with now and in the future.
The proposed 2016-2017 operating budget will be available on the City of Flint website. A copy of the budget will also be available for review at the Flint Public Library and in the City Clerk’s Office. The Mayor and members of City Council will meet over the next two months to discuss the proposed budget and make any adjustments agreed upon before they have approve the budget in June. Suggestions from residents made during the public comment period at future City Council will also be considered.
While the City is facing a number of challenges Mayor Weaver said, “Approving this budget is an excellent opportunity for Flint residents and leaders to show the state of Michigan, the United States of America, and the world that we can work together and that we are doing what it takes to meet the needs of the City of Flint”.