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Detroit oversight board adopts schedule

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The oversight board charged with ensuring Detroit follows its post-bankruptcy plan convened Friday for its second public meeting since a judge confirmed the city’s plan to restructure and slash its debt.

Among its actions, the new Financial Review Commission adopted a regular monthly meeting schedule, but delayed immediate adoption of bylaws during the session at Cadillac Place on West Grand in Detroit.

The commission doesn’t officially start work until the effective date of the bankruptcy, which Mayor Mike Duggan on Friday said is anticipated early in December.

“I do expect we will be out of bankruptcy in the first half of December,” said Duggan, noting the date is fluid but should be before Dec. 15. “Kevyn Orr said all along he hoped to be out by Thanksgiving but for sure he’d be out before Christmas. I don’t think that time table has changed.”

The bankruptcy plan was formally approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes on Nov. 7 and allows Detroit to shed $7 billion in debt and invest $1.7 billion into restructuring over the next decade.

The nine-member board was created as a condition of a “grand bargain” designed to shore up Detroit pensions and protect city-owned masterpieces in the Detroit Institute of Arts from being sold to satisfy creditors in the city’s bankruptcy. The bargain represents a funding commitment that’s equivalent to $816 million over 20 years, including $195 million from the state, in addition to money from the DIA, foundations and corporate donors.

Commission members include Duggan, City Council President Brenda Jones and John Roberts, the state budget director, with state Treasurer Kevin Clinton as chairman. In addition to those legally required appointments, there also are five members designated by the governor.

Detroit’s Chief Financial Officer John Hill on Friday provided members an overview of Detroit’s new budgeting process as well as the key components of the city’s debt-cutting plan.

The city, Hill said, is currently working on its two-year budget, a requirement prior to Detroit’s exit from bankruptcy.

The city’s four-year budget plan must be submitted to the review commission by March 23, or 100 days prior to the commencement of the city’s fiscal year on July 1.

After the mayor and City Council sign off on the budget, the commission would then have 30 days to approve or reject the four-year financial plan, Hill said.

Duggan remarked during the meeting that officials are aware that the time line calls for the city to move its budgeting process forward several months and it “will fully comply.”

Jones after the session said the budget process will “change tremendously” under the new requirements.

“We have a lot of work coming to us,” she said. “This council is up to the task and we are going to do what we need to do.”

Under statute, the commission will ensure Detroit is meeting post-bankruptcy and statutory requirements, and review and approve the city’s four-year financial plan.

The commission can reduce expenditures, and review contracts of more than $750,000 and comprehensive bargaining agreements. If the city budget doesn’t meet standards, the new board can ultimately impose a budget on the mayor and the City Council.

The board established Friday that future meetings will be held from 2:30-3:30 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month. They will meet again from 9 a.m. to noon on Dec. 5.