Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Millage Approval v Emergency Financial Manager in Allen Park

Allen Park is facing drastic measures to keep their city afloat. Their choices are few; either pass a 4 mill tax increase, agree to cuts in pay and benefits to fire and police, close the recreation center, or put in place an Emergency Financial Manager.

The deficits aren’t due to mismanagement or corruption of city funds. The city had big dreams with a deal they had with Unity Studios. Those dreams were interrupted with the reality of over $400,000 in unpaid rent, bills, and vacant leased property that accrued the 48% decrease in expected tax revenue from the proposed Unity project.

I talked to Allen Park Mayor, William Matakas, at length. As he spoke his voice, even without words, reflected his deep concern for the city. He openly discussed the hard decisions and concessions that had to be made. He lacked the natural political arrogance of most politicians, sounding more like a father worried about financial security of his personal household. Concern for this “family” above and beyond his place as the Mayor, resonated in his voice.

To escape the implantation of an Emergency Manager, Mayor Matakas explained, the 4 mill tax increase had to be voted in. He explained that in December and July the average house in Allen Park assessed around $43,000. The millage would raise the taxes about $167.00 per year, but with the assessments the real costs to the taxpayer would be an average of $22.00 less than what they paid last year. 

I explained my fears of the people being unaware of what implementing an EFM could mean to the Allen Park residents. I told him I feared they didn’t realize the power shift. A Mayor and City Council could be diminished to a “Dictatorship” with one person holding all the power. The City Council being cast out, the Mayor holding only the power to take minutes, and the votes of the residents, meaningless. The EFM would have the power to end all contracts, including, but not limited to, fire and police. He agreed and also feared the validity of the power, constitutionally, but acknowledged how real those powers enumerated to the EFM are.

Mayor Matakas went on to say the other ways to contribute to the lowering the deficit was to close the recreation center, saving $400,000 (less maintenance and utilities,) ask the fire and police to take a 20% decrease in benefits and a 10% cut in pay (with explanation of a 2013 guaranteed 3% raise to the fire and 2% to the police, making the actual pay reduction to 7% and 8%,) and the prospective sale of 2 small parcels of land.

I tried to contact Unity Studios, but all the numbers I could find were invalid.

There is an emergency meeting today in Allen Park to address the EFM issue at 7p.m. I hope to see many Allen Park residents there.

Till then….over and out!


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