Graduation ceremony for Food Gatherers Community Kitchen Job Training Program at Performance Network. [photo]
Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Jan. 16, 2013): Washtenaw County government will be working to erase a projected $24.64 million general fund deficit over a four-year period from 2014 through 2017. County administrator Verna McDaniel and her financial staff gave a budget briefing to county commissioners at their Jan. 16 meeting.
Although a much smaller general fund deficit of $3.93 million is projected for 2014, McDaniel hopes to make $6.88 million in structural changes that year – a combination of new revenues and cuts in expenditures. If that happens, “we’d be done – we’d have no deficit” going forward, McDaniel said, because those cuts and revenue increases would compound and carry over into future years.
To do that, for 2014 the goal is to generate an additional $1.2 million in revenue, reduce operating costs by $2.96 million, cut $100,000 from outside agency funding, and find $2.62 million in reductions to employee compensation and benefits.
McDaniel noted that for 2012-2013, the county overcame a $17.5 million deficit – but only about $7.3 million of that came from structural changes. Yousef Rabhi, the board’s chair, noted that even though the $6.88 million target is lower, the cuts will be a challenge because many services are already cut to a minimal level.
The board has set a planning retreat for Thursday, March 7 at 6 p.m. – to be held during its regular working session – to talk about budget priorities.
In other action at the Jan. 16 meeting, commissioners were appointed to more than 40 boards, commissions and committees. [.pdf of 2013 appointments listing] Because of changes approved late last year, commissioners will receive stipends based on the number of groups on which they serve, and the number of meetings that they are expected to attend.
Though there are still some details to be determined, a tentative tally of stipends shows a total of $8,800 for all nine commissioners, with individual pay ranging from a low of $0 for Ronnie Peterson, the only commissioner with no appointments, to $2,700 for Yousef Rabhi, whose appointments include several that are mandatory because of his position as board chair.
Unlike the previous per diem system – when commissioners had to request payments, which were administered by the county clerk’s office – the stipend payments will be pro-rated, aggregated and paid out biweekly as part of a commissioner’s paycheck. No one is responsible for monitoring attendance, and absences will only be addressed if brought to the attention of the board chair.
During the Jan. 16 meeting, commissioners also approved a variety of federal grants, primarily related to funding for homeland security and job training. And given initial approval was an application for a $20,000 grant to fund expansion of an after-school program called “Telling It” in the West Willow and MacArthur Boulevard housing developments – low-income neighborhoods on the east side of Washtenaw County.
The grant application is unusual in that it’s the first time a county unit – in this case, the sheriff’s office – has sought funding through the coordinated funding pilot program, which was designed to support human services more effectively in this community. The coordinated funding is a partnership of Washtenaw County, the city of Ann Arbor, the United Way of Washtenaw County, the Washtenaw Urban County, and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.
A task force has been formed to guide a pilot training program for agribusiness jobs in Ypsilanti, including support for entrepreneurs in food-related businesses. The Washtenaw County board of commissioners voted to create the task force at its Nov. 2, 2011 meeting, but none of the 17 members to the entity have been identified.
Called ”Seeds for Change: Growing Prosperity in Ypsilanti,” the project is intended to provide job training and placement to unemployed workers interested in agricultural employment, and to offer shared commercial kitchen space and business support to local agri-business entrepreneurs, according to a staff memo. The initiative will also encourage local entities – including governments, universities, hospitals, and other partners – to buy products made from people in this program. Products …
Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners working session (April 8, 2010): Two presentations at Thursday’s working session were tied to the community’s health: how federal stimulus dollars are being spent, and how former prisoners are being helped, with the goal of reducing repeat offenses.
Mary King, coordinator of the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative of Washtenaw County, told commissioners how the MPRI is attempting to reduce the county’s high prisoner recidivism rate – a problem dating back several years. She also urged them to consider eliminating a question on the county’s employment forms that asks about an applicant’s felony history. Such questions can be barriers to employment, she said, and the biggest cause of parole failure is lack of a job.
Leaders of two county departments – Mary Jo Callan of the Office of Community Development, and Patricia Denig of Employment Training & Community Services (ETCS) – gave an update on how some of the county’s $22.69 million in federal stimulus funds are being spent. Those two departments alone have received $13.22 million for a wide range of programs, from job training to low-income housing.
The Washtenaw County department that Trenda Rusher supervises is undergoing transition, and not just because the long-time workforce development manager is retiring.
At Monday’s annual joint meeting of the two boards that oversee the county’s Employment Training & Community Services (ETCS) department, Rusher spoke of several other changes – from the dramatic growth of revenues, thanks to federal stimulus dollars, to the equally dramatic increase in demand for services, due to Michigan’s economic plight and the implosion of the auto industry.
And as Rusher departs – after nearly three decades with the county, she’s heading to Washington, D.C. to start her own consulting business and to be near her twin daughters – the new county administrator will be looking at possibly reorganizing the operations that serve as a conduit for millions of federal, state and local dollars.
Verna McDaniel, the deputy county administrator who’s expected to replace retiring administrator Bob Guenzel, spoke to ETCS staff and members of both boards on Monday, saying “we will be looking at all options.” No decisions have been made – a planning team will be meeting to lay out a strategy for evaluating what’s next, she said.
Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Administrative Briefing (April 8, 2009): Hefty funding from the federal stimulus package means as many as 1,000 local youth will get summer jobs and hundreds of adults will get job training and employment services, county commissioners were told at their Wednesday administrative briefing. Of the $3.6 million awarded to Washtenaw County, $1.95 million will be used to fund jobs for low-income youth between the ages of 14 to 24. The county now needs to find employers with suitable job openings, said Verna McDaniel, deputy county administrator.
Commissioners also discussed their plan for this Saturday’s retreat, which will focus on setting budget priorities.
It was a surprisingly loud whistle from Eileen Spring, president of Food Gatherers, that called the crowd to order. The assembled graduates, friends and family were at the Delonis Center today to celebrate their completion of the Culinary Arts Training Class. And the pre-graduation mood was certainly lively and celebratory enough to require whistling to order.
The Culinary Arts Training Class is part of the jobs training program …