BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - It's official. The city of Benton Harbor is once again in control of its own finances, after spending three years under emergency financial managers.
In his final goodbye to the city, EFM Tony Saunders said "It has been a privilege to serve on behalf of the city of Benton Harbor and its residents. We have worked together and taken some critical steps in righting the city's finances."
Saunders cited a 30 percent reduction in the city's general operating fund as one of the biggest achievements.
In his weekly video address, Mayor James Hightower praised Saunders for his efforts to put the city back on the right track.
“As mayor, I want to take this moment to thank Mr. Tony Saunders for coming into an extremely torrid situation and doing a phenomenal job in turning things around financially in a year's time,” he said. “You are truly appreciated and always welcome in the city of Benton Harbor.”
Before Saunders left, he secured a loan from the state and budgeted the city with a $2 million surplus for the next two fiscal years. The city commission will now work with a transition advisory board to ensure Benton Harbor finances stay on the right track.
“State involvement in a city’s affairs must be limited to a financial crisis,” Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph said. “Today’s announcement of a resolved financial emergency is an example of the process working to stabilize local finances and help create a stronger community. Now it is up to the residents, tax payers and elected officials in Benton Harbor to begin the transition to managing their city – free of financial stress.”
Members of the Receivership Transition Advisory Board include:
• Cary Vaughn, audit manager at the Michigan Department of Treasury (state treasurer designee)
• Bret Witkowski, Berrien County Treasurer (Department of Technology, Management and Budget director designee)
• Sharon Hunt, former human resources/trade customer support manager at Whirlpool Corporation, representing a member with relevant professional experience.
• Marvin Raglon, retired manager for Whirlpool Corporation, representing a member with relevant professional experience.