CHICAGO -- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said March 10 that the financial emergency in the long-struggling city of Benton Harbor is officially over.
The announcement came after a state-appointed emergency manager imposed general fund cuts of up to 30% and other measures, including new labor contracts and transferring the local pension system to the state-run Municipal Employees' Retirement System of Michigan.
Benton Harbor, located in southwest Michigan with a population of 10,000, has been under state control for four years. The outgoing EM, Tony Saunders, took over from Joseph Harris, who is also a former chief financial officer of Detroit. The city is the headquarters of Whirlpool Corp.
The state has set up a four-member transition board to oversee the city as Saunders leaves. The transition board is part of the state's relatively new law for distressed local governments, and is designed to ease the transition back to local control.
"With authority being returned to local control, this transition advisory board will work cooperatively with local leaders to ensure continued financial stability and growth in the city and ensure the essential services that citizens need and rely on," Snyder said in a statement.
The board members are: Cary Vaughn, an audit manager at the Michigan Department of Treasury; Bret Witkowski, the Berrien County Treasurer; Sharon Hunt, a former executive at Whirlpool; and Marvin Raglon, also a retired Whirlpool executive.
While under state control, voters also approved a pair of operating millage renewals that were previously rejected, which will help boost the general fund, the state said. Crime is also down.