Public Act 4 an Important Tool for Leaders

Public Act 4 of 2011, the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act, has been very beneficial to me in addressing the financial emergency in the City of Ecorse. PA 4 provides clarity regarding the role of the emergency manager and the duties authorized under the act. The City of Ecorse is in a far better financial position today than it was when I was appointed emergency manager in March of 2010.

PA 4 was instrumental in recent arbitration proceedings with the city's police and fire unions. The arbitrator recently awarded the city most of what was requested and PA 4 was referenced as a factor in making the award. In addition, police and fire department administration is now directed by a public safety director with the fire department supporting a staffing model that expands the use of part-time firefighters. Savings associated with the transition to a public service department total more than $1 million.

Other accomplishments are far too numerous to mention here, but I would be remiss if I didn't note the following, which would not have been possible without the tools and resources provided for in PA 4 and its predecessor, Public Act 72 of 1990.

We have eliminated 33 full and part-time city positions and further reduced expenditures through furlough days. We were able to enhance city revenues by implementing a court officer, increasing permit fees, and placing a temporary special assessment for police and fire operations on the tax roll. Revenue increases totaled $2.4 million with expense reductions of $2.35 million for a total change of more than $4.7 million in the general fund budget.

In reorganizing city service delivery, public works was brought back in-house, with annual savings of more than $2 million. Within the last year, several other city services were re-bid with anticipated annual savings of $268,000.

For the first time in two fiscal years, the city will not have to borrow to meet operating expenses. The current fiscal year budget is balanced, with general fund revenues expected to outpace expenditures.

The city has been aggressive in pursuing restitution regarding illegal and negligent actions taken by former city officials. The city was recently awarded $50,000 in restitution related to convictions of city officials and vendors. We are currently considering other actions to recover losses to taxpayers as a result of gross negligence and illegal activities.

In June, 2011, the City of Ecorse issued Judgment Bonds in the amount of $9.4 million to pay outstanding judgments owed to Ecorse Public Schools, Wayne County, and other judgments related to litigation. To issue bonds, special legislation was required in addition to assistance from the Snyder administration and the Michigan Department of Treasury. The bond issue was instrumental in reducing the City's outstanding deficit and, in fact, the city recently received a national award for "Small Bond Issue of the Year" from the Bond Buyer magazine. The award recognized the complexity of the deal and how beneficial such an issue could be in other communities around not only Michigan, but the country.

I have also worked diligently to enhance communication and outreach to the residents of Ecorse. A city website and newsletter have been developed to enhance communication. This is the first time the city has had a formal website and newsletter.

We also are moving forward with Envision Ecorse, a process to work with members of the community, elected and appointed officials, and others in the development of a strategic plan for the city. The plan will be beneficial with transitioning city leaders into their roles of governance and sustaining the work we have undertaken during the financial emergency. A Citizen Advisory Committee has been established to oversee the visioning and planning process and to ensure implementation of the plan. The Michigan Municipal League and the Southeastern Michigan Foundation has partnered with the city to support this effort.

For the reasons outlined above, and others I don't have space here to detail, Public Act 4 has provided an important tool to those who have been charged with addressing local government financial emergencies.