2011 Financial Deficit
In 2007, the City of Dearborn instituted a new City Charter, which included a minimum staffing provision for the Police Department and Fire Department. This measure effectively locked in staffing costs for these two departments, a reality that when combined with a shrinking tax base due to a contracting economy to produce a significant financial deficit for the city. Between 2007 and 2011, the city cut 35% of its full time non-emergency positions.
Recognizing the potential pitfalls of minimum staffing provisions, in 2011 the Michigan State Legislature passed MCL 117.5 which prohibited any city from adopting a new charter with a minimum staffing requirement. Dearborn's 2007 City Charter was already in place at the time, and was not directly affected by the law. However, Mayor O'Reilly began to pursue an effort to remove the minimum staffing provision. This process would involve City Council voting to place the Charter amendment on the ballot.
In a special session hosted July 11, 2011, the city council voted down the proposal to put the question of removing minimum staffing requirements from the city's charter on the ballot. Council member Abraham voted "yea", while council members Bazzy and O'Donnell voted "nay".
At that same session, City Council voted to authorize ballot measures for the following:
Proposal 1 -- Additional property tax of 3.5 mils. Adopted by current Council Members Abraham, Bazzy and O'Donnell. Approved by voters.
Proposal 2 -- Redirection of library millage into the general fund. Abraham, Bazzy and O'Donnell. Approved by voters.
Proposal 3 -- Elimination of the Civil Service System. Abraham, Bazzy and O'Donnell. Approved by voters.
As a direct result of these actions by Dearborn City Council, Dearborn residents saw a significant increase in property taxes, and a decline in services. By refusing to put the question of removing the minimum staffing provision on the ballot, Dearborn City Council made a decision that resulted in the shuttering of the city's health department resulting in an annual savings of $170,000; permanent closure of the Snow Branch resulting in an annual savings of $200,000 per year. At this time, the Police Department continues to receive over $41 million annually from the general fund.