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East Lansing approves 2024 fiscal year budget with the goal of retaining staff

 exterioir of East Lansing city hall
City of East Lansing

The city of East Lansing has authorized its budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Councilmembers voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a $44.7 million budget, a nearly 5% increase over the previous year's general fund. That vote came after weeks of presentations and discussions between council members, the finance department and other city employees over spending priorities.

Mayor Ron Bacon says the city had to construct pared down budgets in previous years due to a decline in activity during the pandemic. He says that forced the city to defer some projects in public works and other departments to keep costs low.

In comparison, he says this year’s iteration was easier to put together because the city has seen some growth in population and revenues coming out of the pandemic. Bacon adds the spending plan aims to address that growth by filling vacant roles and expanding departments, particularly in public safety.

"Our emphasis will be ... in our personnel, and our pay rates and things along those sides and make sure those are right-sized," Bacon said.

The budget provides funding for the East Lansing Police Department to hire two additional officers, going from 49 to 51.

During the council's Tuesday meeting, councilmember Noel Garcia Jr. expressed concerns with officers being pulled from their beats to support special programs like Albert EL Fresco downtown. He proposed hiring another officer with federal American Rescue Plan dollars.

"We have all these great initiatives," Garcia said. "And we're asking our police officers to do it with the same amount of officers."

The council has agreed to consider future amendments to the budget that would allocate outstanding American Rescue Plan funding.

Bacon says those dollars could also go towards efforts to retain staff members following a wave of departures earlier this year. Officials have proposed offering a retention bonus to entice staff to remain with the city.

The spending plan also funds several new public infrastructure projects, including some water main replacements and the construction of bike lanes along Coolidge and Hagadorn roads.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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