Saturday, January 08, 2005

Pay Cut for Council Long Overdue

Both the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit are facing upcoming budget crises. The state is staring at a $370 million deficit, while the much-smaller city of Detroit forecasts a $214 million shortfall if it cannot balance its budget by July 1, 2005.

Cost-cutting - including layoffs and department mergers - as well as possible tax increases, are some of the options that both offices have considered as possible means to fill-in their budget shortfalls. And, just a few weeks ago, the public became privy to another possible solution - self-imposed salary cuts by governmental officers. In fact, Governor Granholm proposed a 5% salary cut for herself - which has already been approved by the Michigan Legislature - and has also requested a budget freeze for both herself and Michigan's Lieutenant Governor, John Cherry, which will extend through 2008. On a related note: Granholm also requested a 5% salary cut for Cherry, who the Free Press quoted as making an annual salary of $123,000.

Following the lead of Granholm, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has stated that he, along with three of his key cabinet members, will also take a reduction in pay in the upcoming fiscal year. Kilpatrick, who pulls in almost $177,000 per year, has yet to specify the exact reduction he or his officers will take. This article in the Detroit News stated that Kipatrick's top aides - Chief of Staff, Christine Beatty; COO Walter Watkins; and, new Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams - all make somewhere in the $140,000 range.

Although I would love to say that Detroit's City Council followed the examples of both the Governor and Mayor by voluntarily agreeing to cut their $81,000 salaries, this is not the case. And, not only have they not cut their salaries, this Metro Times News Hits article from 12/22/04 reports that the Council actually increased the size of its budget this year - to $16.9 million. This new figure allots $731,000 to each council member to spend at will, except for Council President, Maryann Mahaffey, who gets $1 million.

Hmmm...I just can't figure it out: we have a council with several members that are vehemently against layoffs, but keep making poor decisions in the wake of a major budget crisis. They continue to increase spending and their budgets, while the tax base continues to erode. I mean, What are they thinking? The only answer is that they are not (thinking).

I'd like to give them something to think about, then: Get with it, Council. It is time to step up - cut your salaries.