Mar 6, 2023 - News

3 big takeaways from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan's budget plan

Illustrator of Detroit Mayor, Mike Duggan, with lines radiating from around him.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Mayor Mike Duggan's administration proposed a spending plan for the next fiscal year on Friday, a reflection of its priorities and ethos.

  • Plus, as City Council responds to the proposal over the next month, we'll see how the priorities of the two pillars of city government compare.

Three main takeaways:

Trying to solve the driver shortage

The city is seeking a $15 million budget increase for the Detroit Department of Transportation, partly to recruit and retain bus drivers.

  • "We need to deal with the pay of our bus operators to keep them competitive," Duggan told City Council Friday.

Details: The increase also replaces federal funding that lapsed and farebox revenue losses.

  • A specific breakdown hasn't been decided yet, a spokesperson tells Axios.

State of play: Low pay is to blame for bus driver shortages that result in delays or cancellations that inconvenience riders, the Free Press reports.

  • DDOT drivers make around $16/hour to start and $20.79/hour on average, per the Detroit News. The department's 404 drivers are 100 short of its budgeted positions.
  • Nearby Ann Arbor has a starting salary of $28.65.

What they're saying: The DDOT budget increase is an encouraging start toward a pay raise, Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United, tells Axios.

  • "That's definitely what we need and what we've been asking for," Owens says.
  • "Our transit is as embarrassing as the 2008 Lions season," resident Steven Hawring said during public comment. He said he believes the city is "trying" but "we need to do more" as young people choose to move to Chicago or New York instead.

Home demolition

Duggan's budget also calls for $13 million to tear down vacant homes. Detroit has been paying for thousands of teardowns using $250 million in voter-approved bond funding, with around 7,000 homes owned by the Detroit Land Bank Authority left to demolish or sell using those dollars.

  • Duggan wants to also deal with the city's approximately 4,000-5,000 privately owned dilapidated homes, but said Friday it's "challenging legally" to do that using bond funds — thus suggesting more city dollars.

Cutting property taxes

The mayor's team also proposed lowering property taxes the next two years to save homeowners somewhere around $50-$100 this year and $100-$200 next year.

  • "We are going to have a tax cut for the first time in my memory," he said.

Between the lines: Duggan is responding to an initiative from council member Angela Whitfield Calloway, though his proposal is slightly different and smaller than hers — a smaller cut lasting two years instead of five.

Meanwhile, some public commenters blasted the city for not giving high priority to vulnerable Detroiters' immediate needs, like Right to Counsel, an effort helping prevent evictions amid what experts call an eviction crisis.

What's next: City Council members will weigh the mayor's proposal, meet with city departments, make changes and then vote on the final budget in April for the fiscal year starting in July.


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