Dearborn Heights prepares for shutdown as mayor, City Council fight over budget

If the Dearborn Heights City Council doesn’t approve a budget by June 30, all city services could shut down July 1, according to Mayor Bill Bazzi. 

Both sides are working to ensure that doesn’t happen, with one more special council meeting set for Friday evening. 

Bazzi said that the Council has rejected "several" balanced budgets, while Council Chairman Mo Baydoun said that the budgets started with a $1.9 million shortfall, and all have asked to take money from the city’s "rainy day" fund, which is not acceptable to the Council. 

The City is already in violation of it’s own charter, requiring the budget to be passed by the first Monday of June, but the July 1 deadline is a state law. 

"If we don’t have an approved budget approved by June 30, we are, by the Public Act 2 law, not allowed to make expenditures of any type on behalf of the city beginning July 1. This will result in a shut-down of all city services," Bazzi said. "This will include virtually every service provided by the city. We are working to ensure some degree of our emergency responder services will be maintained, but they will definitely be impacted. Sadly, all city buildings will be closed for business. 

"There will be no trash pick-up, no public works services, all youth and senior recreation programs will be cancelled, the city’s telephone system, its website and cable TV channel will be shut down, and all employee compensation, along with their benefits will cease. Unless our Council decides to approve our 2024-25 budget this week, we are essentially out of business. I honestly regret having to take this measure, but when I took this office, I swore to do everything by the book. We have presented multiple proposed budgets, which have been rejected. I will not tolerate these rogue individuals’ attempts to coerce us into continuing to do business without a budget – which is illegal by state law – then try to convince the public the Administration is violating the law."

This process started in April 

"This is the mayor’s budget," Baydoun said. "We started these meetings in April. On the first day, at the first meeting the mayor didn’t provide us any information."
Baydoun said at that time, their interim comptroller was only on the job for a week, and "didn’t know what he was doing."

He said that for the last two years, the city hasn’t had a balanced budget, but the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds covered that gap.

"Those ARPA Funds are no longer there," Baydoun said. "The mayor says that certain council members don’t want to pass it, seven, unanimously said no."
That first budget had a $1.9 million deficit that would have used reserve funds to cover the gap.

"The mayor has this really malicious, angry approach," Baydoun said. 

Bazzi said that if the budget isn’t passed at Friday’s meeting, he is holding an emergency meeting Saturday with city employees to plan the shutdown, which will include furloughing all of the city employees.

"My chief of police and also fire chief are working with other communities … trying to see if we can get some mutual aid," Bazzi said. "It’s a huge nightmare for the city. The city has never gone through this before."

Bazzi said his last two budgets were balanced, and there were "several" hearings where the council asked for changes.

"It’s important for the state that we have a balanced budget," he said.

Bazzi said that the council is asking for "more surplus," which means he’ll have to cut even more services, but that they haven’t told him what they want or need to be cut. 

"I don’t know what they want," Bazzi said.

Baydoun said that during budget discussions it "slipped" that one of the city directors received a $5,000 "bonus," which caused the City Council to ask for year-to-date expenditures on salaries. 

That’s a point of contention as Bazzi said they are asking for W2 information, which is illegal to share. Baydoun said they only want to see the salaries, not the other information.

"If this director received an illegal bonus, who else received these little bonuses from this administration?"

Bazzi said that the council is giving him a "moving target," on what they want, and refuse to pass the budget in the meantime. 

The last vote on a budget failed at a 2-2 vote, with three members of the council not attending the meeting. 

"Since April 1, everything that they wanted, we’ve put in they’ve asked for."

Baydoun said they are hoping to pass a "skinny" budget similar to what the State did, to ensure city services are continued, while they continue to negotiate other aspects of the budget. He called the city budget a "fluid document," that can be updated after July 1. 

The meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m.  June 28 at Dearborn Heights City Hall, 6045 Fenton Street.

Mo Baydoun, left, and Bill Bazzi