The City of Saginaw is in a quandary. Nearly 24 million dollars of it's general fund goes to police and fire protection, and that is 72% of general revenue. That number is rising each year as a declining population and a 33 year old revenue cap in the city's charter are squeezing off revenue, and leaving other issues such as repairs to city hall also unaddressed.
Now, City Manager Darnell Earley says he's formed a committee to take a long hard look at the city's public safety budget and reform it. "It has to be done," said Earley in his presentation to the council, "and quite simply previous City Managers should have been telling you this all along."
The committee will take the next 6 months to examine this issue and it will be comprised of city leaders, business leaders, representatives from police and fire and their respective unions, and even a former mayor. Saginaw police Chief Gerald Cliff says he's happy with the makeup of the committee but is worried about what they might recommend. He says his department has already been streamlined and has been using creative techniques to save money. "Every study that has been done for fiscally challenged cities... everything they've recommended... we were doing them before the studies even came out," says Cliff.
Cliff is worried that the progress in recent years, which has yielded a reduction of violent crimes in Saginaw, will be reversed. "At some point you lose the ability to deliver that service and you're going to see us creep back up where we spent the last 5 or 6 years getting away from. That's frustrating," said Cliff.
Earley says whatever the committee comes up with he is confident it will be the right answer and with some conflicting interests this diverse group is the best approach. "This is not about the City Manager, it's not about the unions or the City Council, it's about the citizens, the 52,000 people who live in the city and the surrounding areas affected by the quality of life in this city."