LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Buchanan politics, deficits, and mutiny

Published 3:30 pm Monday, November 27, 2023

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Buchanan is broke. The last State of Michigan F65 Municipal Finance report covers fiscal year 2021-2022 with a $1.32 million deficit. Buchanan’s 2022-2023 report is under review by the City’s auditors and will likely have a million dollar deficit. The 2023-2024 budget also has an inherent massive deficit.

In 2018 Buchanan voters elected a reform ticket of City Commissioners. One of their first acts was to abolish the Downtown Development Authority, cutting the income flow the DDA generated for the City. This was the first of a number of mistakes and bad decisions by the current Mayor. Next was hiring an unqualified City Manager. 

That new City Manager went on a spending spree, hiring staff, doling out bonuses and pay raises, and generally burned through Buchanan’s cannabis excise tax revenue and ARP money. Suddenly Buchanan was paying $20,000 a month on accountant’s fees and $10,000 a month on legal fees sorting out historical administrative messes.

City Manager Ben Eldridge was brought in to put Buchanan’s financial house in order. Raising taxes is not an option. Buchanan’s property tax rate is third highest in Berrien County. Scaling back non-productive staff will be the quickest route back to solvency. Unfortunately, a pre-emptive strike was launched by the employees most likely to be found redundant. This is the crux of Buchanan’s current financial mess. 

Suspending or firing Ben Eldridge will not solve Buchanan’s labor and financial problems. Termination will only make it more difficult to find yet another intrepid leader capable of addressing Buchanan’s budget shortfalls. Two steps backward and one step forward.

Alan Robandt