Council’s Budget Retreat Postponed Pending Analysis of Public Input

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Thursday, February 8, 2018, 10:42 am
Alice Dreger

The City of East Lansing has cancelled City Council’s planned annual budget retreat, which had been set for this Saturday, February 10, at the Hannah Community Center. According to a City-issued press release, the meeting has been put off “to allow additional time for staff to gather information and review the feedback gathered during the Budget Priority Community Engagement Meetings” held on January 10 and January 18.

Councilmember Shanna Draheim told ELi this morning that the meeting has been rescheduled for the evening of Tuesday, February 20, “replacing our usual agenda for the discussion only meeting that evening.” This plan is confirmed by the City’s press release.

According to Draheim, “Council is planning an additional public engagement session to discuss results of the survey and potential revenue options.” The date for this is not yet available.

The City hired Public Sector Consultants to manage the two January public-input meetings. Results of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show that the City is paying Public Sector Consultants $9,465 for designing and conducting those two meetings and to “process results and write [a] short final report.”

That report, according to the contract ELi obtained, was due in late January, but that plan had been developed before City Council decided to extend the deadline on a special online survey developed in connection with the meetings. (The cost of the survey and analysis was not included in the $9,465 fee for managing the two two-hour meetings.)

Council has been seeking opportunities to increase public input in the budget process this year, as the City faces financial stress related to "legacy" (retirement-related) debt. In December, Council held a special Sunday meeting at the East Lansing Public Library to discuss Strategic Priorities and the budget. That was moderated by MSU faculty member Christopher Peterson who, FOIA indicates, did not charge the City for his services.

The agenda that had been posted for Saturday’s meeting had included a City budget overview, a presentation and review of the General Fund five-year forecast, discussion of the “preliminary fiscal year 2019 budget assumptions,” and discussion of Capital Improvement Projects. The agenda had left time for communications from the audience after these discussions. An agenda is not yet posted for the February 20 meeting.


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