Local officials disappointed in governor’s state of the state address

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published January 29, 2014

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EASTPOINTE/ROSEVILLE — While Gov. Rick Snyder touted the work his administration has done with the state budget during his State of the State address, local officials were not happy with a lack of ideas on how to restore funding to schools and cities. In his speech, Snyder reported economic good news in the state while tasking the Legislature to act on new infrastructure spending and to come up with ways to keep communities from needing an emergency manager. For Eastpointe City Manager Steve Duchane, that was not enough. “Very directly, I am deeply disappointed,” Duchane said. “You can’t say the state is in great shape when 12 cities are presently under an emergency manager, or in consent agreements before going into fiscal (receiverships), and another half-dozen are on the border.” “I’m not sure that’s a state that’s strong and vital,” Duchane added. He dismissed Snyder’s plans to get more state support behind public safety and said sending a few state troopers to Flint is not a good indication of him getting behind Michigan’s quality-of-life issues. Duchane stressed he did not dislike Snyder’s administration, saying that they did something that needed to be done, but he wants to see the governor be a better partner for local cities. He said since the governor understands numbers, he should know exactly the problems cities are facing. Duchane said some communities have already seen cuts in refuse collection and police officer numbers, as well as reductions in other public workers due to the reduction of state-shared revenue. With the state now taxing pensions, he said they should find money to at least help cities enhance local property values. To that end, he requested that the Eastpointe City Council pass a resolution calling on the state Legislature to use the budget surplus to restore funds to local governments, as well as to amend its municipal finance system. The resolution passed unanimously Jan. 21. “Invest in police, firefighters, infrastructure, and make them attractive places for people to invest,” Duchane said. “While you’re trying to keep cities travelable and keep police and firefighters on the road, enforcing codes, fighting blight and creating attractive places people want to live in, you certainly didn’t hear the words you want to hear.” Snyder did address prekindergarten funding during his speech, noting that the state has put more resources into those programs than any other state. While he did say the state has increased funding for schools — half of it in the pension program — to the tune of $660 per student, local school officials disputed his figures. Roseville Superintendent John Kment, who said he did not see the speech live but read about it afterward, said he would have liked to see Snyder talk about returning the anticipated budget surplus to the public school system. He said Roseville has lost roughly $400 per student from the state Proposal A funding of around four years ago, and that money has not made its way back. “There’s so many districts, including us, that are right on the financial bubble, even though we made cuts,” Kment said. “To us, it would be $2 million a year. It’s not paper-route money; it’s serious money.” Kment also said the state putting more money into the college system at the expense of public schools is not something he agrees with. While he said colleges deserve funding, he does not think other schools should be ignored in the process. “Here’s an extra group of people that are eating out of the pie now,” he said. “Even though you put more money in, there’s no more for the schools — the K-12 — because there’s more people taking the money.” Roseville City Manager Scott Adkins declined to comment, saying he had not seen enough of the speech, and East Detroit Superintendent Joanne Lelekatch could not be reached at press time. C & G also reached out to the office of state Sen. Tory Rocca, R-Sterling Heights, but did not hear from the senator as of press time.
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