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Lansing City Council adopts budget to grow savings, fund warming centers

facade of Lansing City Hall building
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio

The Lansing City Council has adopted a revised budget that funds city services and operations through the 2024 fiscal year, with adjustments geared toward growing the city’s reserve funds and supporting warming and cooling centers.

The amended spending plan approved Monday night allocates a general fund of $159.4 million, a 2.5% increase over the current budget. That differs from Mayor Andy Schor's proposal, which recommended about $4.5 million more for the general fund and a 5.4% increase from the previous year.

Council President Carol Wood said community members urged her the group to be responsible stewards of the city's finances. She took issue with Schor's plan, which would have pulled from the city's pool of money meant for emergencies.

Wood said she worked directly with the mayor's office to reach to a compromise that would reduce costs by millions of dollars and add over $2.5 million in reserve funds.

"Living within your means, even though we do have a rainy day fund, needs to make sure that [we only spend it when] it is raining, not just because there is a fund there that we can dip into,” she said.

The amended budget would increase savings by reducing operating funding for several Lansing departments, including Parks and Recreation and Human Resources. Wood noted that spending for public safety departments would not see any reductions in financial support.

Some public commenters criticized the move and said it would affect city services. The council said they expect Schor to make up the difference by carrying forward additional finances from the current spending plan into the next fiscal year.

Council members retained several of Schor's priorities, including the $75,000 study to examine a parking finance model.

But the group also approved two additional amendments that redirected funding from the mayor's office. Ward 1 Councilmember Ryan Kost's measure set aside dollars for road and sidewalk repairs. Another from Ward 4 Councilmember Brian Jackson allocated $150,000 to support unhoused community members on days with extreme heat or cold.

Jackson's amendment would provide the city's four community centers with the resources to establish warming and cooling centers.

"Every winter, it's like, oh, surprise, it's freezing cold, and we have a bunch of people outside," Jackson said. "And we all want to do something. But then, every year, we can't do anything, because there's no money for it budgeted...if we can get the unhoused people at least warm during the dangerously warm or cold times, then that's what I want to do.”

Under the City Charter, Schor has three days to act on the plan. He can leave the spending as is, veto specific line item previsions or reject the entire budget.

Scott Bean, a spokesperson for Schor, said the mayor generally supports the budget that the council adopted Monday night.

"They passed a budget that supports important and necessary services including police, fire, public services, neighborhoods and so much more that our residents expect and deserve for their tax dollars," he said. "Mayor Schor will be closely reviewing the final budget, as amended and passed, and decide on any potential vetoes over the next couple days."

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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