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Detroit City Council approves 2023 fiscal year budget

Detroit Free Press
Apr. 15, 2022
Dana Afana 

After several clerical delays and a lack of quorum, Detroit City Council approved the annual budget for the 2023 fiscal year about 11 p.m. Thursday.

Council voted 8-0 in favor of a $1.2 billion general fund spending plan after weeks of deliberations and hearings. Councilmember Gabriela Santiago-Romero was absent after testing positive for COVID-19 but urged her colleagues during the public comment portion of the meeting to pass the budget.

The budget, subject to mayoral approval, includes $50,000 to increase outreach for disability services, $100,000 for a strategic plan for the Immigrant Affairs office and $6 million to fund a property tax overassessment program for legacy Detroiters.

Other plans include $1 million to establish a comprehensive six-week parental leave policy for city workers and $70,000 for three law students to assist with the city’s Freedom of Information Act request backlog.

The city’s overall budget is nearly $2.5 billion. Mayor Mike Duggan in March presented a proposed $1.2 billion “return to normal” general fund budget for the 2023 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The presentation also included more than $1.2 billion in “other funds,” which are a “special fund” for restricted purposes, such as blight money, Budget Director Steve Watson told the Free Press after the mayor’s presentation.

The mayor said online gaming taxes helped offset the city’s losses. It brought in $26.6 million last year and is projected to bring $71.1 million for the 2022 fiscal year, which ends June 30. The overall budget is an increase from the 2022 budget, which was $2.33 billion. The city slashed millions for the 2021 budget due to revenue losses during the pandemic.

The city has $135 million in excess that will be used in one-time allocations for the 2023-24 budget.

“The mayor thanks members of the administration and City Council who worked so hard on this year‘s budget. He feels it does a good job of reflecting a broad range of perspectives and priorities,” Duggan’s spokesman John Roach said.

Several attendees during public comment urged council members to allocate funding for disability needs.

Kaci Messeder, a policy analyst with Detroit Disability Power, said during Thursday’s public comment that she and other activists sent more than 200 letters and shared more than 20 public comments advocating for funding for the disability office.

“The Office of Disability Affairs needs a budget of $1.4 million to be a permanent and successful fixture of the city of Detroit. Their three-year strategic plan includes vital services for our communities and that work requires and deserves funding,” Messeder said.

The approved resolution indicates that City Council will “work to ensure that Office of Disability Affairs is fully funded” with $1.4 million.

Blythe Kim, also with Detroit Disability Power, told the council that the disability community is “not here to be paraded around as your cause” without change and improvement.

“We know that we are more valuable than this. If you don’t see this now, you will see the power of our disability community come through election time,” Kim said.

District 7 Councilman Fred Durhal III commended the budget but said more work is needed to fund priorities, such as the Office of Disability Affairs, “to its fullest extent and other priorities that are outlined” in the resolution.

“This council table has poured their heart and souls into these closing resolutions as well as funding priorities the best way we can with funds available, while still trying to work and ensure that our budget remains fiscally stable,” Durhal said at the meeting.

The mayor has until Thursday to approve or veto any changes council members made.

City Council was scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. but delays in receiving the appropriate documents and challenges maintaining a quorum pushed the vote late into the night.

A full breakdown is available online, along with Thursday’s resolution.

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