EAST LANSING, Mich. – In the face of significant financial challenges, East Lansing City Council hosted two successful Community Engagement Meetings to gather public feedback on the City of East Lansing’s budget priorities this January.
The meetings provided participants with an opportunity to share feedback with City Councilmembers as they look to prioritize City services with a goal of financial sustainability. A total of approximately 215 community members participated in the meetings, which were facilitated by Public Sector Consultants.
“We want to thank the community members who participated in these conversations about the future of our community. We received a lot of important feedback and were able to answer a lot of great questions,” said East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas.
The meetings included a presentation by East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas on the City's financial situation and round-table exercises that allowed participants to think about and discuss potential reductions in services and new revenue for the City. Participants were also able to share feedback via a Budget Priorities Survey at the end of the meetings.
The presentation, table handouts and survey are now available online for those who were unable to attend the meetings: www.cityofeastlansing.com/budgetfeedback. The online survey deadline is Wednesday, Jan. 24 at noon. The survey results (from the meetings and online) will be compiled by Public Sector Consultants and presented to City Council in a final report. The report will be considered by Council as they look at a number of options to address the City’s financial challenges in the future. These options could include a reduction in services, the addition of new revenue or a combination of both.
The City of East Lansing has and continues to face significant financial challenges as a result of decreased revenue sharing from the state over the past 16 years, tight state restrictions on the ability of local governments to raise new revenue, the ongoing impact of the drop in property values as a result of the recession and Proposal A/Headlee limits, low taxable value per capita, legacy costs (which have increased due to the recession and below-average market returns; the City’s pension obligations were 80% funded in 2003 and they are 53% funded today) and the ongoing need to renew aging infrastructure. It’s important to note that the City has had no growth in revenue in a decade. The percent change from 2006 to 2017 is -1.4 percent.
Steps taken to address the City’s financial challenges over the years include decreasing the overall size of government (elimination of 130+ positions since 2007), restructuring pension and retirement benefits for employees, consolidating and restructuring City departments, creating a Healthcare Task Force to keep rising healthcare costs at a minimum, adding 2 mills to the East Lansing Public Library operating budget, sharing services with neighboring municipalities and making other strategic cost-cutting decisions across all City departments.
Despite these steps, the City’s challenges have persisted and Council will be looking at a range of options moving forward.