Budget cuts, medical marijuana spotlight City Council meeting
Possible budget cuts was the biggest talking point at the East Lansing discussion-only City Council meeting Tuesday evening.
No decisions have been made yet, and it might be a while before everything is figured out, Councilmember Ruth Beier said.
“There is no easy answer. There may be no answer at all,” Beier said. “I’m not really in that much of a hurry. If this takes a couple years to figure out, we’re not going to be a whole lot broker in a couple years than we are now.”
Mayor Mark Meadows echoed the sentiment, as he acknowledged the conversation will not end anytime soon.
New ways for the city to create revenue are important, because simply making cuts might not put money into the general fund.
A service like solid waste pick-up is funded through a millage, so even if it’s privatized and the millage is cut, no money is added to the general fund. Instead, voters would have to pass a property tax increase equal to the cut millage to put money into the general fund, a convoluted system, Beier said.
“That’s a roundabout way to do it and there’s no guarantee the people would vote yes,” Beier said.
The city joining the marijuana business was one of the ideas that floated around during the meeting.
“If everybody’s right, then this is going to be a culture change, it’s also going to be a revenue change,” Councilmember Erik Altmann said. “There are municipalities in … states that have recreation marijuana in the U.S. that have done this.”
The city needs to look into it and see if it wants to — and if it can — enter the marijuana business, Altmann said.
“We need to think outside the box,” Altmann said.
He also suggested encouraging more developments along the city’s side of Bogue Street to generate more revenue. The new development on the corner of Bogue Street and E. Grand River Avenue will give the city $200,000 in revenue annually.
More developments of a similar scope would generate a lot of revenue, Altmann said.
“We spend all our time trying to make sure that we don’t have student housing in certain places,” Altmann said. “I wonder if maybe it’s time to rethink that and embrace that particular market.”
Ideas such as shutting down the Hannah Community Center, reducing public safety officers and no longer broadcasting meetings were discussed.
However, no decisions were made, although cuts will inevitably happen, Meadows said.
“We are going to make cuts regardless of any other income source we find,” Councilmember Shanna Draheim said.