EAST LANSING, Mich. – East Lansing City Council will be hosting its second community engagement meeting to gather public input on the City of East Lansing’s budget priorities this Thursday, Jan. 18 from 7-9 p.m. at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road.
The meeting, facilitated by Public Sector Consultants, will feature a brief presentation by East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas on the City’s financial challenges, followed by round-table exercises that will allow community members to think about and discuss potential cuts and revenue options for the City. There will also be opportunities to ask questions and share feedback both verbally and via a survey at the end of the night.
“The meeting will provide East Lansing residents with an opportunity to share their input as we look to prioritize City services with a goal of financial sustainability,” said East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows. “We as a Council will be continuing to look at a number of options to address the City’s financial challenges and we would like to hear from the community on what type of City government they want in the future. We invite all residents to join us for this important conversation about the future of our community.”
“We were pleased with the turnout at the first community engagement meeting and hope to see a similar turnout for this second meeting,” said East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas. “This is an important opportunity for community members to let their voices be heard as Council looks to make some difficult decisions in the near future.”
Community members do not need to attend both meetings, as they will follow the same format and the same information will be shared.
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. These options could include a reduction in services, the addition of new revenue or a combination of both.