Archived Story

Benton Harbor financial emergency resolved

Published 9:20am Tuesday, March 11, 2014

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Gov. Rick Snyder Monday announced that the financial emergency in the city of Benton Harbor has been resolved and appointed a Receivership Transition Advisory Board (RTAB) to help ensure a smooth transition and guide the city to continued financial stability.

“This is an important day for the residents of the city of Benton Harbor. I’m pleased to be able to accept Tony Saunders’ recommendation that the financial emergency has been sufficiently addressed,” Snyder said. “With authority being returned to local control, this Transition Advisory Board will work cooperatively with local leaders to ensure continued financial stability and growth in the city and ensure the essential services that citizens need and rely on.”

Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Tony Saunders notified the governor late Thursday, March 6, of his determination. Saunders and the governor cited several factors and accomplishments, including:

• General fund expenditures being reduced by 30 percent, allowing the city to turn previous annual deficits into an annual fiscal year operating surplus of more than $1 million.

• Two operating millage renewals previously rejected by the electorate, passing by more than 80 percent.

• Two collective bargaining agreements being executed following negotiations and which provided cost savings.

•Annual pension contributions increased 380 percent after the pension system was transferred to the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System of Michigan. This resulted in the City meeting its recommended pension contribution during FY 13-14 for the first time in 10 years.

• Thanks to data driven policing, crime decreased considerably while arrests and closure rates increased.

Saunders enacted a two-year budget on Thursday, March 6, following a public hearing Wednesday evening, and on Friday, March 7, issued his final order as Emergency Manager.

“It has been a privilege to serve on behalf of the city of Benton Harbor and its residents,” Saunders said. “We have worked together and taken some critical steps in righting the city’s finances. Going forward, city officials and residents will benefit from the appointment of the transition advisory board. These very knowledgeable individuals will work collaboratively with the mayor and commission to facilitate the transition back to full local control.”

RTAB members include:

• Cary Vaughn, audit manager at the Michigan Department of Treasury (state treasurer designee)

• Bret Witkowski, Berrien County Treasurer (Department of Technology, Management and Budget director designee)

• Sharon Hunt, former human resources/trade customer support manager at Whirlpool Corporation, representing a member with relevant professional experience.

• Marvin Raglon, retired manager for Whirlpool Corporation, representing a member with relevant professional experience.

For more information about Public Act 436 of 2012, the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act, visit the Local Government Fiscal Health page on the Department of Treasury’s web site at www.michigan.gov/treasury.

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