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Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Free Press asks: As budget cuts loom, what could your community do without? Firefighters?

Today's Free Press article:
After years of cutting budgets, cities across metro Detroit are looking at making the steepest -- and in some cases most extreme -- cuts they've ever made in response to Gov. Rick Snyder's plan to sharply trim revenue-sharing money that local communities collect from the state.
Allen Park officials voted Tuesday to lay off all 26 members of the city fire department if they can't get the union to agree to concessions they say are sorely needed to keep the city solvent.
The City of Romulus, where voters rejected a millage proposal Tuesday, now is looking at closing its library.
State Treasury data from 2009 -- the most current available -- show more than two dozen communities in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties were rated as being under fiscal watch, one notch below the more serious fiscal stress category. Among them: Troy, Southfield, Livonia, Farmington, Novi, Royal Oak, Hazel Park, Lincoln Park and Riverview.
Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed eliminating $300 million in revenue sharing, $256 million of which goes to communities in metro Detroit. Local governments across Michigan would then compete for a $200-million pot of money, though the criteria for getting it aren't yet clear.
"You can only cut so much before it starts cutting into the bone," said Mayor Jim Fouts of Warren, which stands to lose $3.3 million under Snyder's plan.
 Libraries at risk
The mood was somber Wednesday at the Romulus Public Library, as patrons learned it could close after voters overwhelmingly rejected a 2.75-mill tax Tuesday.
"I was hurt because the library is essential to all of our lives," said Marie Charles, a 35-year Romulus resident. "The library is the gateway to the world, and without books, there is no gateway."
"It could be a really tough time ahead," said Romulus Mayor Alan Lambert. "I don't know who is going to move into a community without a library, recreation center or parks."
Troy -- Oakland County's most populous city -- will no longer have a public library as of 5 p.m. May 1, after city officials declined to spare it earlier this month.
"It could be that the majority of residents just want a place to live that is inexpensive, and quality of services takes a backseat to the millage rate," City Manager John Szerlag said in a Feb. 16 memo to the City Council.
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