The City Council has approved a $12.7 million increase to the mayor’s proposed 2022-23 fiscal budget, directing more funds to support Detroiters who were overtaxed, update Detroit’s master plan and to create a paid-parental leave program for employees
The panel also is requesting $67.9 million in federal funds to help keep Detroiters in their homes and support other projects sought by residents.
The council voted 8-0 late Thursday in favor of the budget amendment that calls for $8.1 million in one-time spending and $4.5 million in recurring appropriations. This represents a 1% increase in the general fund budget proposed in early March by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. The budget is the first adopted by Detroit’s new council which took office in January.
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District 6 Councilwoman Gabriela Santiago-Romero did not cast a vote on the budget amendment. She tested positive for COVID-19 a day earlier and appeared virtually during public comment to express support for the council’s budget plan.
The council also passed a closing resolution that outlines how they would like the city to use a second tranche of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds coming to Detroit this year. Council members said the ARPA funding could be used to cover the cost of programs that didn’t make it into the budget.
“I do believe this budget is good, but I also believe it will need more work as we continue and move forward to fund priorities such as the Office of Disability affairs to its fullest extent and other priorities that are outlined in our closing resolution,” said District 7 Councilman Fred Durhall III. “I want the public to know that every member at this council table has poured their heart and souls into these closing resolutions as well as funding priorities the best way we can with funds available, while still trying to work and ensure that our budget remains fiscally stable as we move forward and continue some of the progress the past council has done.”
The council voted to appropriate $2 million for a program meant to support Detroiters overtaxed by more than $600 million in the years after the Great Recession, with a request to bolster the program with $4 million more in federal funds. Another $2 million was included to update the city’s master plan. Other funding increases went toward staff adjustments in several city departments.
There also were a few cuts in the budget proposal. The council’s plan drops $7 million in appropriations for capital projects, $1.1 million earmarked for demolition as well as $1 million from the police cadet program.
Duggan unveiled his $2.45 billion spending plan earlier this year. The council’s adopted budget plan will be presented to the mayor. Duggan has until April 21 to veto the council’s budget amendments, if he chooses. The next fiscal year starts July 1.
City budget documents project increased revenues compared to pre-pandemic years due to stronger income tax collections and the implementation of internet gaming and sports betting the previous year. General Fund revenues were projected at $1.2 billion, an increase from $1 billion in the current fiscal year.
The use of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds has been a hot issue. Detroiters made their voices heard during the last few weeks of budget hearings, advocating for programs to support home repairs, residents with disabilities, a right-to-counsel ordinance for Detroiters facing evictions and repayments to homeowners who were overtaxed between 2010-16.
The council’s lengthy closing resolution spells out spending requests for ARPA funds. Detroit received half of the funding – $413 million – in June 2021 and is poised to receive the remaining half this year for a total of $826.7 million.
Last year, the previous council approved Duggan’s plan for splitting the funds into two major pots; $400 million for budget shortfalls and $426 million for community projects. Duggan’s plan includes 15 funding categories. Specific initiatives within those categories are being determined by the council and mayor, and contracts need approval from the council. The funds must be allocated by the end of 2024 and spent before the end of 2026.
Council President Mary Sheffield thanked residents for participating in the budgeting process.
“While we certainly have not been able to meet every need or adequately assess every priority, City Council’s closing resolution shows our commitment and our and our intent to continue to listen to our constituents and work toward creating opportunities, to deliver services and address all of the issues that have been raised through public comment,” Sheffield said.
Some of the APRA spending priorities included specific dollar amounts, while others did not.
The council asked Duggan’s administration to establish a $17 million Capital Improvement Fund for homeowners and $6 million for a “right-to-counsel” program that would provide legal representation for Detroiters facing eviction proceedings, subject to enactment of an ordinance authorizing the program. The council wants $18 million in ARPA funding to go toward that legal services program in the next three years.
Detroit’s senior citizens could benefit from a $5 million request to create a program to provide assistance for seniors facing food and housing insecurities. The council also wants to use ARPA funding to provide $1,400 checks to retirees who were impacted by COVID-19, but did not specify a total request.
Council members are urging the administration to direct $6 million in federal funds toward one-time bonuses for city bus drivers who served as front-line workers during the pandemic. The council also wants to use $10 million in ARPA funding to subsidize bus fare for low-income Detroiters.
Additionally, the council requested $3 million to boost the city’s Make It Home program, which helps renters who live in tax foreclosed properties become homeowners, and $3 million for homelessness prevention.
The council supported a $3 million allocation from ARPA funds and private donations to test out a guaranteed income program. Another request called for $1 million to create a six-week paid parental leave program for city employees.
Districts 4 and 7 would receive new recreation centers with a $15 million combined investment from general fund and ARPA funds and the council favors a millage to support the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on top of $1.8 million in ARPA funding, along with $1.2 million for the Detroit Historical Museum.