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The unenviable job of EFMs

June 7, 2011 - Steve Murch
Like the legislation or hate the legislation, I'm wiling to bet there isn't a single person who would want to be one of the state's emergency financial managers. Why would you? If you are an EFM, then your job is that of a hatchet man. In nearly all cases you are being asked to cut jobs because that is the single largest expense for any government or business. No one wants to eliminate someone's livelihood unless they are a heartless SOB.

That's exactly what is happening in Pontiac, where the state's appointed EFM, Michael Stampfler, proposed eliminating the city's police force last year. The final step was the elimination of the union contract for the 10 police dispatchers. The city received state approval Tuesday. The dispatchers will be the first public employees in the state to have a contract voided under the bill signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in March that gives EFMs expanded power.

The down side to all this, obviously, is the loss of jobs. As we are being warned of a rebound recession, where jobs don't return quickly, there are more jobs being lost. However, the city had a deficit of over $10 million and something had to be done. The police services are going to be contracted out to the Oakland County Sheriff Department and save the city $2 million. That's roughly 20 percent of the city's deficit. That is no small amount any way you look at it.

While budgets in Northeast Michigan are tight, none of our local governments appear to on the verge of having the state take them over, though there are struggles aplenty. You can never say never, but so far so good.

We should use the Pontiac scenario as a remind of how things can be, and understand the tough tasks our local elected officials face with their budget issues.

It's a tough job no one relishes, but EFMs are on the job. Here's hoping we don't see them in our area.


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