Stories indexed with the term ‘budget impacts’

County Board Gets Update on State Budget

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (March 2, 2011): This year’s update from Lansing – delivered by lobbyist Kirk Profit and his colleagues at Governmental Consultant Services Inc. – brought little positive news to county commissioners.

Kirk Profit, Leah Gunn

Kirk Profit of GCSI – a Lansing governmental consulting firm – talks with commissioner Leah Gunn during a break at the March 2, 2011 Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

At his presentation to the board a year ago, Profit foreshadowed that a change in leadership at all levels in Lansing would affect the county. On Wednesday, he outlined more details of that impact, specifically related to the state budget recently proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder, the Ann Arbor Republican who was elected to office last November.

Responding to GCSI’s presentation, commissioners expressed concerns on a range of topics, including legislation giving broader emergency financial management powers to the state, potential changes to collective bargaining, and K-12 education funding. Leah Gunn made the most direct plea, asking Profit to convey a message to legislators: “Just send us money!”

Aside from the state budget update, commissioners dispatched the rest of their agenda with little discussion. Included in their actions was approval of a resolution allowing the United Way of Washtenaw County to secure a necessary state gambling permit for the nonprofit’s March 9 Power of the Purse fundraising event. The permit is needed so that United Way can auction off gift baskets.

The board also approved changes to its annual calendar that eliminated all future administrative briefings from the board’s meeting schedule. The decision to eliminate the administrative briefings – informal meetings that have been held the week prior to the board’s regular meetings, to review the upcoming agenda – was made at their final briefing on Feb. 26. There was no discussion of the issue on Wednesday.

During public commentary, Tom Wieder returned to address the board about per diem payments for commissioners, an issue he originally raised five months ago. He said he couldn’t quite believe that some commissioners still hadn’t repaid the amounts that an independent audit had determined they owed.

The audit showed that nearly all commissioners needed to reimburse the county for some per diems or mileage that they had inappropriately claimed. The amounts ranged from $25 to $14,385 – an amount repaid by former commissioner Mark Ouimet, who was elected to the state House last fall. All but board chair Conan Smith and Barbara Bergman, and former commissioners Jessica Ping and Ken Schwartz have repaid the amounts they owed as determined by the audit. [Full Story]

Budget Round 6: Bridges, Safety Services

At their final meeting to discuss the city’s FY 2011 budget before its adoption next week, Ann Arbor city councilmembers focused on the East Stadium bridges reconstruction project and safety services – the possible layoffs of firefighters and police officers. While reconstruction of the bridges will be funded with money outside of the general fund, safety services account for around half of the city’s roughly $78 million general fund budget.


Hired six weeks ago, Ann Arbor fire chief Dominick Lanza answers questions about the impact of cutting 20 firefighters from the city's staff. (Photos by the writer.)

Margie Teall (Ward 4) and mayor John Hieftje had indicated at the council’s May 3, 2010 meeting that they hoped a $2 million payment to the city from the Downtown Development Authority would be authorized by the DDA’s board later that week. They’d said they intended to use that payment to stave off as many layoffs in safety services as possible, as well as to keep human services funding at last year’s levels.

Although the DDA approved the $2 million for the city two days later on a 7-4 vote, details were scant on Monday night about how the money might be used – how many positions would still need to be cut, and where those cuts would come.

Dominick Lanza, the city’s fire chief, and Barnett Jones, the chief of police, spoke about specific negative impacts on services that would result from the layoffs scheduled in this year’s budget, unless amendments are made next week.

How grim does the situation look from inside safety services? At one point, Jones paused nearly 10 full seconds before responding to a question from Sandi Smith (Ward 1). She’d asked him to comment on how community standards positions might be filled. When he finally did answer, Jones began by saying, “I really don’t want to.”  [Full Story]