> From: ltheriot@...
> Date: Thu Jan 27, 2005 13:42:42 US/Eastern
> To: Detroiters@yahoogroups.com
> Subject: Re: [Detroiters] As Detroit faces cuts, council pads own
> OK I'M CONVINCED THEY ALL GOTTA GO, IF YOU'RE SENDING MONEY BACK WHY
> ARE YOU ASKING FOR AN INCREASE? 53 TO 60 PERCENT PAY INCREASES? PAYING
> A FULL STAFF FOR A NON-EXSISTANT COUNCIL PERSON? 48 PERCENT INCREASE
> IN BUDGET OVER A 4 YEAR PERIOD? CHECK AND BALANCE THE MAYOR'S
> ADMINISTRATION? WHAT EACH COUNCIL HAS TO HAVE A ONE TO ONE RATIO TO
> THE MAYORS STAFF? WHAT GAME ARE THEY PLAYING? RESEARCHERS.....?
> COMCAST CABLE INTERNET SERVICE DAMNIT. LAWYERS....? DON'T WE ALREADY
> PAY A LAW DEPARTMENT IN THE FIRST NATIONAL BUILDING?THIS S__T IS
> CRAZY, INSANE."THAT'S LIKE A MISQUITO ON THE BACK OF A TYRANNSAURUS
> REX" COCKREL SAID WELL THATS HOW YOU CAN BLEED TO DEATH ONE DROP AT A
> TIME AND TIME IS RUNNING OUT. EVER HEAR OF LEADING BY EXAMPLE? YA'LL
> GOTTA GO
> On Thursday, Jan 27, 2005, at 08:42 US/Eastern, Charles C. Primas
>> As Detroit faces cuts, council pads own budget
>> Leaders planning 4-percent increase
>> January 27, 2005
>> BY MARISOL BELLO
>> FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
>> Faced with a budget crisis that threatens to send Detroit into state
>> receivership, the City Council says it is prepared to slash spending
>> in every city department.
>> But one budget remains untouched -- its own.
>> At the same time Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick says the city must cut
>> salaries and shed workers to help save more than $231 million, the
>> council is seeking a 4-percent increase in its $17-million budget.
>> In its preliminary budget for the coming 2005-06 fiscal year, the
>> council's head administrator says the increase is due to higher
>> pensions and health care costs.
>> The request is nothing new for the nine-member legislative body,
>> which has the final word on the city's budget. Since 2000, the
>> council has upped its general fund budget by 48 percent -- more than
>> any other city department.
>> All eyes are on Detroit and its elected leaders as they struggle to
>> bail the city out of its fiscal crisis. State officials are weighing
>> whether to allow the city to impose more taxes, while city workers
>> worry about who will be laid off next and residents wonder how the
>> city will continue to provide even the most basic services.
>> The council's budget has increased as its members have doled out
>> generous pay raises to their staffs, increasing salaries by as much
>> as 60 percent. During the same time, city workers had eked out 0- to
>> 2-percent annual pay increases in their contracts. In addition, the
>> council increased its number of budgeted full-time employees on the
>> city's payroll to 108 from 92. Salaries and benefits make up almost
>> three quarters of the council's current budget.
>> "That's a lot of money," said Joe Valenti, president of Teamsters
>> Local 214, which represents about 800 city workers, 30 of whom will
>> be laid off in the latest round of cuts announced recently by
>> Kilpatrick. "What is the justification for all those people on the
>> Council members and their staff defend the increases. They say that
>> as a check and balance to the mayor's administration, they need
>> researchers, analysts and lawyers.
>> Council President Pro Tem Kenneth Cockrel Jr. said that while the
>> council's budget has increased, its $17-million makes up only 1
>> percent of the city's total $1.6-billion general fund budget.
>> "That's like a mosquito on the back of a tyrannosaurus rex," Cockrel
>> Other members argue that the council has returned almost $12 million
>> in unspent money to the general fund in the last five years.
>> "Look at how much money we've returned; the council is not
>> overspending," said Councilwoman Sharon McPhail, who is a mayoral
>> Administration officials say that if the council is returning, on
>> average, more than $2 million a year, it is a sign that their budget
>> should be modified. The additional money, they say, could be diverted
>> to other departments that need it.
>> The budget office has recommended cuts to the council's budget that
>> council members have routinely ignored.
>> Since the era of the late Coleman Young, mayors have tried
>> unsuccessfully to convince the council to rein in its budget. The
>> body has not cut its budget since the city's last fiscal crisis in
>> 1993, when Young chastised the council for increasing its budget.
>> That year, the council requested an 8-percent increase and three new
>> The council's staffing and spending habits came under scrutiny even
>> before Kilpatrick announced his drastic budget reductions earlier
>> this month. In November, it was disclosed that Councilman Alonzo
>> Bates is under federal investigation for allegedly paying an aide
>> $38,000 while she was in New York.
>> Bates further caused a stir when he went on a radio talk show and
>> said: "What I did is standard procedure of all the folks down there,"
>> apparently referring to the City Council. Bates refused requests to
>> discuss the allegations or the council's budget for this report. In a
>> statement, he said he has done nothing illegal.
>> At the time, Council President Maryann Mahaffey said council members
>> operate their budgets on an honor system.
>> Recently, still more questions were raised about the council's
>> staffing after WDIV-TV (Channel 4) reported that Mahaffey allowed the
>> 14 members of the late Councilwoman Kay Everett's staff to remain
>> until the end of the fiscal year, June 30, doing work for other
>> council members. Everett died on Thanksgiving.
>> Mahaffey, who under the city's charter is responsible for all of the
>> council's administrative duties, could not be reached for comment.
>> The Free Press tried to discuss the council's budget with her for a
>> week. The day after she said she would provide answers, she went on a
>> two-week sick leave for shoulder surgery.
>> The staffing issues illustrate how the council members oversee their
>> individual $732,000 office budgets with little to no oversight. Those
>> budgets include salaries and benefits for the council members. Each
>> member decides the size of his or her staff, sets their salaries and
>> raises, and decides whether staffers are full or part time. The
>> members can hire an employee to be on the city's payroll, with full
>> pension and health care benefits, or under a contract, which offers
>> no benefits.
>> As a result, the number of employees in each council member's office
>> varies widely, from seven to 14 or more. Salaries and pay raises also
>> run the gamut because they are at the discretion of each member.
>> City payroll records show that between 2003 and 2004, Bates gave one
>> of his administrative assistants, Andrea Perry, a 30-percent raise,
>> the biggest of any staffer on the council's payroll that year.
>> Perry's salary increased from $37,400 to $48,600 -- even though her
>> job classification remained the same. Other staffers made huge salary
>> gains when they changed jobs. Between 2002 and 2003, Councilwoman
>> Alberta Tinsley-Talabi gave her policy analyst, George Stanton, a
>> 60-percent raise when she promoted him to chief of staff. The next
>> year, she dropped his salary from $84,000 to $74,000.
>> "He's a valuable member of my office," Tinsley-Talabi said recently.
>> She said Stanton had not received any significant raise for the two
>> years prior to 2003.
>> The biggest salary winners have been the five cameramen who tape the
>> council's daily sessions that air every night on cable television.
>> Over the last three years, their salaries jumped 53 percent, from
>> $30,000 to $45,900.
>> Kathie Dones-Carson, the former council research and analysis
>> director who supervised the cameramen and gave them the increases,
>> said the raises reflected the low pay they had been receiving.
>> During last spring's budget session, Tinsley-Talabi suggested big
>> cuts to the council's budget in light of the growing fiscal crisis.
>> She was met with silence from her colleagues, who instead increased
>> their budget by another 3 percent.
>> During that discussion, Councilwoman Barbara-Rose Collins suggested
>> the council cut the mayor's budget and increase theirs so they could
>> update their video equipment. Other members nixed the idea, but among
>> the requests in the council's preliminary budget for 2005-06 is
>> $225,000 for new cameras.
>> David Whitaker, the acting research and analysis director, said some
>> of the equipment is more than 15 years old and needs to be replaced.
>> He said he is talking with the city's Cable Commission about
>> borrowing its equipment so as not to spend additional money.
>> Other increases in the council's budget and staff are the result of
>> federal cuts. As federal grants have dried up, the city's general
>> fund has had to pick up the costs.
>> For example, the budget for the City Planning Commission, the
>> division that advises the council on economic development, doubled in
>> the last five years because it lost $900,000 in federal grants that
>> paid for seven staffers, which taxpayers will now have to supplement.
>> As the budget season gets under way for the 2005-06 fiscal year,
>> which begins July 1, council members say this current crisis will
>> force them to look critically at their budget.
>> "Reviewing these numbers is a clear indication that the council, as a
>> body, needs to spend more time reviewing the specific elements of the
>> budget," said Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel. "Absolutely, in light of
>> the city's fiscal crisis, we need to make more careful and well
>> thought-out decisions."
>> Contact MARISOL BELLO at 313-222-6678 or bello@.... Free
>> Press data analyst Victoria Turk contributed to this report.
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