County Plans Public Outreach on Budget

Forums, online efforts to share information, get input

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners administrative briefing (April 29, 2009): A light agenda for next Wednesday’s board meeting meant a short briefing this week, with some non-agenda discussion related to outreach during the budget process.

Commissioners Conan Smith and Kristin Judge – chair and co-chair, respectively, of the board’s Ways & Means Committee – presented an outline of public forums and other outreach that the county will do in the coming weeks, as the administration and board prepare to tackle an anticipated $26 million deficit over the next two years. Three forums have been scheduled so far, with others in the works. The outreach includes the possibility of contacting local blogs, such as Arbor Update, to help get the word out about the budget process, Judge said.

The following forums have been set:

  • Tuesday, May 26: Meeting with local chambers of commerce from 7:30-9:30 a.m. at the county’s Learning Resource Center, 4135 Washtenaw Ave., Pittsfield Township.
  • Wednesday, June 3: Meeting with not-for-profit funders and agencies from 3-5 p.m. at the county’s Learning Resource Center, 4135 Washtenaw Ave., Pittsfield Township.
  • Thursday, June 11: Meeting with elected officials in Washtenaw County from 4-6 p.m. at the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, 1819 S. Wagner Road, Scio Township.

Smith said he’ll lead a discussion at these forums after county administrator Bob Guenzel provides an overview of the county’s budget. Rolland Sizemore Jr., the board’s chair, noted that since the administration won’t be presenting a proposal for cuts until the June 3 board meeting, there won’t be as much information to share at the earlier forums. Smith said they’d plan to follow up with those groups.

Judge passed out a memo that outlined suggestions for other ways to share information about the budget and solicit public feedback. Those include:

  • Public forums hosted by individual commissioners with regional groups, community groups and homeowners associations.
  • Contacting local blogs and online forums such as Arbor Update to solicit public comment.
  • Using the county’s website to provide updated budget information.

Judge said the point is to try to reach as many constituencies as possible and to make sure the public has ample opportunity for input.

Previous Chronicle coverage of the county’s budget situation: