Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Expanded Emergency Financial Manager Law Working as Intended in Jackson

The prediction made in April:

Contrary to what is being said, state officials are NOT intent on coming into a community and "taking the land", or any of the nefarious motives that have been put forth by generally well-intentioned people; they are intent on having local officials make cuts and extract concessions from working people, period. Republicans aren't being greedy. They are being lazy. Or, to put it a better way, their laziness ultimately serves their greed. It's a two-fer. They are trying to wash their hands of the budget cuts made at the state level, and push all the responsibility and consequences down to local officials. Avoiding blame is what they are best at. We should know that by now.

And that's exactly what happened in Jackson.

The Treasury Department has turned down a request from Jackson's mayor for the state to review the city's troubled finances under the tough new emergency manager law.

"We will not be doing a review at this time," Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton said Tuesday.

Mayor Karen Dunigan requested the 30-day review in April, citing $36 million in pension debt plus another $47 million in bonded debt, as well as unwillingness by members of police and fire unions to pay a larger share of health insurance costs.

Dunigan made the request — a potential first step in the appointment of an emergency manager — without getting approval from the City Council, whose members were unhappy about the unilateral move.

On May 24, the council voted 5-2 to ask Treasurer Andy Dillon not to perform the review. Dunigan cast one of the two "no" votes.

Stanton said a big factor in the decision not to proceed with the review was the budget the council recently passed, which included significant spending cuts.

What did the council do?

City officials earlier announced they would lay off 15 firefighters and 10 police officers. The city also merged its personnel department with Jackson County, will require the Cemetery Department to run on the revenue it generates and will hold off on major equipment purchases.

A $2 million reduction in state revenue sharing and lower property tax and income tax revenues contributed to the city’s budget crunch.

This comes after Jackson has already made significant cuts to the budget and personnel over the years, closing two fire stations just last February - and they aren't done cutting yet. But, seeing as how the Jackson City Council "voted 6-1 to make avoiding an emergency financial manager its top goal" over public safety, you best be investing in some hoses and oxygen masks because you are going to be left to fight those fires yourself.

It's working just as the Republicans intended, as Jackson residents will turn on their local officials and not look at what the state is doing. Chances are, this will work the same way just about everywhere else, too.

Any questions?