Pizza, Payroll and Budget Pain

County board to consider four resolutions at its July 8 meeting
At a pre-board meeting rally held by

Pizza was served at Wednesday's pre-board meeting rally held by AFSCME Local 2733 in the parking lot next to the county administration building, at the southwest corner of Catherine and Fourth. The union wanted its members to turn out as the county Board of Commissioners considered cuts to the 2010-2011 budget.

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting (June 3, 2009): Before commissioners met on Wednesday, about 50 people gathered in the parking lot next to the county administration building for a rally organized by AFSCME Local 2733, the largest of the unions for county workers, representing about 700 employees. This wasn’t a marching-while-carrying-picket-signs rally, however. It was more of a eating-pizza-and-talking event, designed to get members to attend the 6:30 p.m. board meeting as a show of support for the unions.

Union workers mingled with commissioners and other county staff to talk about how to deal with a projected $26 million deficit in the county’s budget over the next two years – a topic that was the main item on Wednesday’s agenda for the board of commissioners.

Recommendations made during the meeting by county administrator, Bob Guenzel – which were aimed at balancing the $102 million general fund budget – included cuts to many departments and to funding for local nonprofits, the elimination of 26 positions (including 12 that are already vacant) and a caution that there’ll be more cuts to come.

Discussion of those recommendations by commissioners during the Ways & Means Committee portion of their meeting resulted in approval of four budget-related resolutions. Those resolutions will receive a final vote from commissioners during their regular board meeting on July 8. Meanwhile, the administration hopes to negotiate concessions from the 17 unions that represent roughly 1,000 of the county’s 1,350 work force. All parties agree that the outcome of those negotiations will be crucial.

Pre-Meeting Union Rally

Tonya Harwood, the union’s interim president, said it’s hard to get members to turn out for board meetings, even when the stakes are high. So the union offers incentives – in this case, 25 Little Caesars pizzas. Harwood said she wasn’t planning to speak during the public comment section of Wednesday’s meeting, but the turnout would send a message that the union membership is concerned about the situation. (And, in fact, the boardroom was filled to capacity at the start of the meeting, with many people spilling out into the lobby, where they watched proceedings on Community Television Network.)

The parking lot gathering was also a way for union workers to share their concerns informally with commissioners, Harwood said. Several commissioners – including Kristin Judge, Jeff Irwin, Leah Gunn, Mark Ouimet and Wes Prater – attended the event.

All 17 unions have contracts with the county running through 2010, with some contracts extending through 2012. It’s up to the membership to decide whether they’ll make concessions or not. Based on conversations The Chronicle had with workers on Wednesday, it’s not clear what they’ll decide.

Some expressed frustration, feeling that unions were being asked to shoulder more of the burden than the county’s nearly 300 non-union members. They believe the administration hasn’t made sufficient cuts elsewhere. Others told us that they were most concerned about keeping their jobs, and had been shaken by last week’s news that General Motors plans to close its Willow Run plant next year. They said that in Michigan’s struggling economy, no one is immune and they’d rather take concessions than lose their jobs – that’s a possibility if the administration can’t find enough other ways to cut costs.

Public Comment

The Ways & Means committee consists of all the members of the board of commissioners, and meets before each meeting of the board.  At the start of the Ways & Means Committee meeting, two people spoke during the time allowed for public comment.

Ken Harrison: Harrison, an Ypsilanti resident, said he was concerned about funding for the Good Samaritan food program operated by Brown Chapel AME Church. The program feeds about 150 people every Friday, he said. They hadn’t heard back about grant funding from the county, and wanted to know one way or another so that they could make contingency plans. He told commissioners that Ypsilanti had for a long time in its past been the breadbasket for the county, but now “we need money, and we need help.” He wanted to see more funding in general for the eastern side of Washtenaw County. As a final note, he said he was proud to see Conan Smith as a commissioner, and remembered voting for Smith’s grandfather. [Smith's grandfather was Al Wheeler, Ann Arbor's first and, to date, only black mayor.]

Paquetta Palmer: Palmer was the only county worker to speak during the public comment session, though more than two dozen employees attended the meeting. She said she was grateful for her job, but had been stressed out for several months about the budget situation. As an employee who works with the Washtenaw Health Plan – which no longer has the capacity to accept new participants – she said she deals with the county’s most vulnerable residents. She urged commissioners to schedule community forums that were accessible to poorer people, at times and locations that would allow them to attend. And she said commissioners needed to look twice at projects they were funding, saying it wasn’t fair for some people’s pet projects to remain funded while the health plan had to turn away applicants. They need to fund human services in order to keep this the kind of place where people love to live. “Things aren’t ok,” Palmer said. “I hope you remember the most vulnerable when you make your decisions.”

Resolution: Commissioners’ Budget

The commissioners first considered a resolution to cut their own piece of the budget by 11.3%, and to create “flex accounts” that would pool previous line items for per diem, travel, and convention/conference expenses. The budget calls for $3,550 per commissioner for these flex accounts. The total budget for commissioners after the reduction is $532,885, an amount that includes salaries ($177,387), consultant fees ($55,150 for a lobbyist in Lansing), fringe benefits ($41,979) and an amount to cover administrative expenses (called the Cost Allocation Plan, at $143,462), among other things. The resolution also includes new guidelines for administering the flex accounts.

This resolution is the third iteration of an attempt to cut the commissioners’ budget, following two resolutions presented at the board’s May 20 meeting that did not receive sufficient support to pass. There was little discussion on the issue at Wednesday’s meeting.

Outcome: The motion carried, with Barbara Levin Bergman, Leah Gunn and Jeff Irwin voting against it.

Budget Recommendations: 2010 and 2011

Guenzel then presented recommendations for cuts and efforts to grow revenues in 2010 and 2011. Some of the recommendations could be implemented later this year, if approved. The Chronicle previously reported on those recommendations. They are also detailed on the county’s website, along with other information about the budget process.

Rolland Sizemore

Rolland Sizemore Jr., chair of the board of commissioners, talks with Lisa Greco, center, director of the county's children's services department, and Angela Tabor, AFSCME Council 25 union representative.

For this report, we’ll summarize the Wednesday evening discussion  following Guenzel’s presentation.  Their conversation was wide-ranging – here, we’ve grouped the commissioners’ comments topically, as they relate to each of the resolutions.

The board was asked to consider three separate resolutions: 1) accepting the first phase of the administration’s budget recommendations; 2) accepting recommendations for cuts to non-union compensation, and 3) approving cuts to nonprofits funded by the county.

Resolution 1: Overall budget recommendations

Rolland Sizemore Jr., the board’s chair, said he would be supporting the recommendations for now, but he would reconsider if he didn’t get answers to several questions and concerns before the final vote on July 8. His questions included: When job openings are available, does the county try to fill those positions from current employees? As a way to address the budget crisis, some employees are asking for changes like flex-time and a cut in the number of paid holidays they receive – is the administration considering those ideas? What are other communities doing to deal with their budget crises? What’s the pay scale for executives at Ann Arbor SPARK, which the county helps fund? Is there any way to streamline the number of unions that represent county employees? Do the non-union employees have any input into the recommended cuts to their compensation and benefits?

Sizemore concluded by saying that maybe it’s time to ask the unions to come up with a plan, rather than putting all the responsibility on management and the board. Guenzel said he’d look into the questions that Sizemore raised.

Commissioner Jessica Ping had concerns about a proposed millage that is intended to raise funds for economic development – specifically, it would cover funding for Ann Arbor SPARK ($200,000) and SPARK East ($50,000) that’s currently allocated from the county’s general fund. [The millage could be approved by commissioners, rather than requiring voter approval, because the enabling legislation – Act 88 – predates the state's Headley Amendment. It would levy 0.017 mills, which equates to about $1.70 per year for every $100,000 in a property's taxable value.] Ping asked when a public hearing on the millage would be scheduled – Curtis Hedger, the county’s corporation counsel, explained that it was proposed for July 8, but that commissioners could change that if they wanted.

Commissioner Kristin Judge had several questions and comments. She asked Guenzel to be sure that he listened to union leaders when they met, rather than just passing along information. She also was concerned about a proposed 18% cut to the public health/environmental health department, and asked the department’s director, Dick Fleece, to speak about how those cuts would affect services. [Recommended cuts would slash $476,493 from the department's budget, and eliminate five positions.]

Fleece said the proposal had been made when times were a little different – namely, before they’d found out that state funding to the department would also be cut. He said that the recommendations have a footnote stating that the department’s general fund allocation might be altered (i.e., increased) after the final state funding level is determined. Judge noted that public health was a mandated service, and she was concerned because the county might face a public health crisis in the fall, referring to the swine flu outbreak. She said she’d be uncomfortable short-changing the department.

Lloyd Powell, left, the countys public defender, talks with commissioner Leah Gunn and Janis Bobrin, the countys water resources commissioner.

Lloyd Powell, left, the county's public defender, talks with commissioner Leah Gunn and Janis Bobrin, the county's water resources commissioner.

Judge also had concerns about funding cuts for the public defender’s office, which is slated for a reduction of six legal clerk positions (four that had previously been agreed to last year, and an additional two in the coming year). Lloyd Powell, the head of that department, said his public defender’s office was taking a hit but that they would be able to maintain the same level of services. They’d use interns and volunteers who were licensed attorneys, as well as temp help on an as-needed basis, he explained. He joked that he’d congratulated his friend Brian Mackie, the county prosecutor, for emerging from the budget crisis untouched. [No cuts are recommended for the prosecutor's office.]

Judge responded by saying that if the county is a union shop, which it is, then they shouldn’t cut jobs and replace them with temporary workers – a comment which elicited applause from union members in the audience. She said she wanted to make sure the public defender’s office had the resources they needed to do their job.

Her final comment expressed disappointment that the administration hadn’t been more creative in looking for ways to cuts expenses. She said she’d been hoping to see more proposals like cutting cell-phone usage or asking people to pay for parking. She hoped to see recommendations along these lines in the second phase of the budget proposal.

Commissioner Barbara Levin Bergman responded to Judge’s remarks, saying that the county wouldn’t be acting alone in dealing with a potential health crisis – the county is part of a consortium that includes local hospitals and schools, she said. Regarding Judge’s concerns over the public defender’s office, Bergman said that this wasn’t a union-busting move, but rather an attempt to use the county’s resources in the best way possible for the community good.

In his remarks, commissioner Jeff Irwin warned his colleagues that these budget recommendations were just the first salvo – what comes next will be even harder, he said. He asked Guenzel whether they’d considered increasing the economic development millage to help fund other areas, such as the Food Systems Economic Partnership (FSEP), which is slated for 20% cuts in county funding (to $12,000 in 2010) and the Small Business Development Center, also in line for a 20% cut in funding (to $8,000). Curtis Hedger, the county’s corporation counsel, said that as long as the entity was a nonprofit that did economic development work, it could be funded by the millage.

Irwin asked Ellen Rabinowitz, executive director of the Washtenaw Health Plan, to talk about why the plan had been closed for enrollment – a fact mentioned at a previous meeting and by Paquetta Palmer in her remarks during the public comment session. Rabinowitz said their revenues haven’t decreased, but they had to close enrollment due to an unprecedented demand for services. (The plan offers health insurance for low-income residents.) There are simply many more people in the community who are uninsured, she said, and the county doesn’t have the resources to serve everyone who needs insurance. She said she’s confident that the recommended funding levels will allow her staff to continue leveraging federal dollars for the program. She noted that the county has a mandate to provide health care for indigent residents, and no cuts are recommended at this time.

Moving to a different part of the budget, commissioner Ken Schwartz asked whether the budget recommendations reflected an increase in staff for the sheriff’s department when the jail expansion opens in 2010. No, Guenzel said – he’d be coming back to the commission to adjust the budget when that increase is necessary. Sheriff Jerry Clayton, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, came to the podium and told commissioners that his department was doing a full analysis of staffing levels and operational costs. [Clayton was elected last November and took office earlier this year.] They are trying to reduce costs by renegotiating food and medical services contracts with the jail’s vendors – he said he hoped to have details about that effort by the commissioners’ July 8 meeting.

Schwartz said that he also hoped to see more progress by July 8 on negotiations with the Trial Court, which is currently negotiating with the administration over its lump-sum budget payment received from the county.

Commissioner Ronnie Peterson spoke at considerable length about his concern over how budget cuts would affect the public, though he did not offer any alternative recommendations to deal with the budget deficit.

Commissioner Wes Prater noted that an additional $12 million in cuts were yet to be made, reiterating Irwin’s comment and saying “the tough stuff” is yet to come. “I hate to think what it’s going to look like in the next round,” he said. “It’s going to be be dramatic.”

Responding to Peterson’s comments, commissioner Leah Gunn said the administration has worked incredibly hard to come up with their recommendations, and has responded to commissioners’ questions and provided information throughout the process. She warned that not supporting the recommendations would reflect badly on commissioners who chose to do that, since it would indicate that they obviously haven’t been looking at the situation very carefully. A lot harder work is ahead, she added, noting that she doesn’t like to see people losing their jobs or to see the county cut services. “It distresses me, but we have no choice.”

Outcome: The resolution passed Ways & Means, with Ronnie Peterson voting no. It will be considered for a final vote at the July 8 board meeting.

Resolution 2: Non-union compensation

The board voted on this resolution with little discussion. Recommended cuts, outlined in this previous Chronicle report, include salary reductions of 3% in 2010 and 2% in 2011, among other reductions.

Outcome: The resolution passed Ways & Means, with Ronnie Peterson voting no. It will be considered for a final vote at the July 8 board meeting.

Resolution 3: Funding for nonprofit agencies

Much of the discussion and commentary focused on the recommendation to shift some of the funding so that it would be administered by the Office of Community Development, a joint county/city of Ann Ann department. This affected three areas: 1) children’s well-being and human services funding, with $800,000 budgeted in 2010 – a 20% cut from the $1 million budget in 2009; 2) the Fair Housing Center, with $40,000 budgeted in 2010, a 20% drop; and 3) Michigan Tenant Counseling, budgeted in 2010 for $13,800, also a 20% decrease from 2009.

Commissioner Ronnie Peterson was particularly upset that funding for children’s well-being and human services would be shifted to the Office of Community Development, and he wanted to know why. [Background: 28 local nonprofits received county grants from the $1 million previously committed to children's well-being and human services. Here's links to listings of the grants awarded: children's well-being ($700,000) and human services ($300,000).]

Mary Jo Callan, community development director, came to the podium and explained that the goal was to create an integrated funding system. In the past, nonprofits had to go through three different grant application processes – one for the county, one for the city of Ann Arbor, and another for the Washtenaw Urban County, a group of 11 municipalities that participate in the federal Community Development Block Grant program. Funding from the city and Urban County – specifically in the areas of housing, health, children’s and youth services, and economic stability – is now administered through the Office of Community Development. If commissioners approve, the county will be included in this integrated funding approach.

There are several advantages for the funding agencies, Callan said. It brings increased coherence to the funding process, allowing the city, county and other municipalities to better understand how their investments are being used. It gives the city/county staff more time to work with nonprofits and it makes the monitoring process more efficient for both her staff and the nonprofits. For years, she said, they’ve asked the nonprofits to collaborate with each other. By integrating these three funding sources, she added, the community development office is following its own advice.

Peterson wasn’t satisfied, saying he was concerned that an already busy office was taking on additional responsibility. He also didn’t want the county to lose control over how the funding would be allocated.

When asked by commissioner Mark Ouimet, Callan confirmed that one consideration in determining whether a non-profit got funded was its overall financial health.  In general, groups with diversified funding sources and healthy reserves are seen as a good investment, she explained: For financially unhealthy agencies with longstanding difficulties, the reality is that they’ll have a difficult time providing services. Community development’s job is to know how these nonprofits are doing – and they should be concerned if a nonprofit doesn’t appear to be financially sustainable, she said.

Commissioner Leah Gunn said the point of an integrated approach isn’t simply the financial piece. It’s also a way to better coordinate how services are delivered and how funding supports the county’s strategic plan. Further, the community development office can also coordinate with other funding agencies, like Washtenaw United Way and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. She also maintained that this approach doesn’t mean the county is losing control over its funding.

Commissioner Kristin Judge urged Callan to come up with creative ways to help nonprofits, beyond funding. She suggested the idea of providing space to house nonprofits, given that some county buildings have vacant offices available – though she cautioned that the county shouldn’t compete as a landlord with the private sector.

Responding to a question from commissioner Ken Schwartz, Callan said that the county would select three representatives to serve on a review panel – the city and the Urban County each have three representatives as well. Her staff had developed a scoring matrix to use in selecting which nonprofits would be funded. Criteria include how well the nonprofit serves a community need and how well they leverage local funding for state and federal dollars, among other things. Noting that she’d been on the other side of the process as a director of a nonprofit [she previously served as executive director of Ozone House], Callan said her goal was to make the funding process fair, transparent and objective.

Both Schwartz and commissioner Jessica Ping urged Callan to factor geographic distribution into her office’s funding decisions. They were concerned that their districts – located in the county’s northeast and southwest quadrants, respectively – were getting left out. Callan said her office does notify nonprofits throughout the county to alert them about available grants, though it’s up to the nonprofits themselves to apply.

Callan said that ultimately commissioners had to trust the process, because funding would be made based on objective criteria, not on the whims of individual reviewers.

Outcome: The resolution passed Ways & Means unanimously. It will be considered for a final vote at the July 8 board meeting.

Budget Update: First Quarter 2009

Jennifer Watson, the county’s budget manager, gave a budget update on the first three months of 2009, January through March. Despite slashing more than $15 million from the 2009 budget late last year, the county is facing a $3.3 million deficit for the year. Proposed solutions include continuing a hiring freeze that was implemented last year, and enacting the cost cuts recommended for 2010 and 2011 as early as possible. If necessary, she said, they can tap balances from the county’s risk management fund ($1.15 million available) and the child care fund ($630,000 available).

Next steps include implementing the administration’s budget recommendations. Another update on the 2009 budget will be made in August.

Final Public Comment

Thomas Partridge, who regularly speaks during public comment periods at meetings of the board of commissioners as well as other local government entities, was the final speaker on Wednesday evening. He spoke of the need to maintain government services and not seek quick fixes to the budget, like cutting payroll.

Next board meeting: The board is starting its summer schedule, with regular meetings held only once a month. The next meeting is Wednesday, July 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the County Administration Building, 220 N. Main St. The Ways & Means Committee meets first, followed immediately by the regular board meeting. [confirm date] (Though the agenda states that the regular board meeting begins at 6:45 p.m., it usually starts much later – times vary depending on what’s on the agenda.) Public comment sessions are held at the beginning and end of each meeting.


  1. June 7, 2009 at 10:05 pm | permalink

    I am very concerned about cuts to the county’s Environmental Health department.

    This is a first-line defense for so many health issues that are national as well as local. Our environmental and public health efforts are the successes that have made the U.S. a safer place to live. The county department is where federal and state public health initiatives are enforced. Not just swine flu, but West Nile, any possible effect of avian flu (hasn’t actually gone away), public food service (restaurants), water including wells for private individuals, the Pall contamination, arsenic toxicity, and on and on. This is one of the “silent” services that we all depend on but will be very shocked if it falls short of protecting the public health. Thanks to Commissioner Judge for defending it.

    So when did the county’s Cost Allocation Plan get applied to the commissioner expense budget? That is a total administrative rake-off. The CAP goes to support building use, risk allocation, capital investment, and the like. Commissioners are pretty expensive but don’t use much of that, except indirectly. Cut that one out and immediately save in the budget. Too bad only 3 Ann Arbor commissioners voted against the minimal cuts to the commissioner budget.

    About the Children’s Well-being initiative: this was begun when I was early on the BOC, about 1998. At the time, allocating $100,00 to these worthwhile projects was very small change. It was not then competing with actual county departments and mandated services.

  2. By Bob Martel
    June 8, 2009 at 9:14 am | permalink

    As I’ve been reading the articles and posts about the City and County budget cuts over the past several weeks, I am continuously struck by how many different services, non-profits, and governmental departments exist to meet the needs of City and County residents.

    Each one of these non-profits and governmental departments/service areas has a department head (or Executive Director) and staff providing direct services as well as an administrative component (including staff as well,) etc…

    I’m certain that each of these little (and not so little) “units” were formed at some time in the past based on some genuine need at the time of formation. However, at this point, there must be a tremendous amount of overhead and duplication involved in maintaining all these little (and not so little) units.

    I cannot help but wonder if there is an opportunity to consolidate some of these units to streamline the overhead and make more resources available for direct services? I know that this would mean the loss of some jobs and some folks would loose their “turf.” But isn’t the public best served by maximizing the resources that can go into direct services rather than as a de facto “jobs program” for a lot of duplicate overhead staff, offices, vehicles, etc…???

  3. By Richard
    June 8, 2009 at 11:44 am | permalink

    Bob…you make some excellent points and I couldn’t agree with you more.

    I would even suggest that the County should (actually should have long ago) review the existing services and establish clear priorities. This is particularly shameful when the WHP is closing enrollment at a time when so many people are losing heath coveage. Its seems odd, that the County, if it acted strategically, could direct funding to the WHP and not at the multitude of service provides, who amount to sub-contractors.

    Between the alphabet soup of county agencies and dozens and dozens of non-profit service providers,I can tell you first hand, that too often more energy goes into maintaining the Human Service Industry Bureacracy than actually providing services to the county residents. President Eisenhower called it the military industrial complex and tragically I think that similar lessons apply to the human service industry in the County.

  4. June 8, 2009 at 1:03 pm | permalink

    These generalities are interesting but don’t offer guidelines for proceeding. A couple of points:

    1. At the BOC some years ago (1998? 2000?) we altered the procedure for both the new Childrens’ Well-being and the old Human Services grants programs. Previously commissioners spent a great deal of time dickering over amounts for various favored agencies. We went to a staff-directed outcomes-weighted procedure that did result in favoring more established agencies over others; but it also meant that some agencies no longer received funds. At the time, it was said that we were in the business to deliver services, not support agencies.

    2. One reason that nonprofit agencies have become a chief vehicle for delivering services is that they are much more economical (i.e., cheaper) than using governmental employees. Another is that they can solicit funding from other sources, so that governmental grants are multiplied. Generally the people in these agencies are also dedicated to what they do.

    3. “Clear priorities” for these dollars were established long ago. I don’t have them to hand but they include health, housing, the elderly, and children. The WHP is just one example of a priority and not necessarily the only one.

    4. One of the reason for “alphabet soup” is that certain configurations and bureaucratic devices are required to utilize federal funds from various sources.

    5. I agree, though, that services should be a priority. A lot of bad investments have been made, whether for programs of uncertain utility like the Aerotropolis or the building program that produced among other things the big, now partly empty, Zeeb Road facility. Unfortunately we are now living with the result of overblown budgets based on the concept, as our past budget director was fond of saying, “The best predictor of the future is the past.” That led to huge projected revenue amounts based on a concept of perpetual growth, and thus long-term obligations to pay for the bonds.

  5. By jcp2
    June 8, 2009 at 3:03 pm | permalink

    While the budget projections clearly were off, they weren’t much different than budget projections made by individuals, corporations, and other levels of government for that time period. The investments made have been bad only in retrospect. I don’t think that any candidate for public office could have been elected in this area on a platform of “save the surplus for a rainy day.” In addition to prioritizing services, we should also examine the future use of government revenue beyond this recession. If one of the roles of government is to be the spender of last resort (debatable, even), then it doesn’t make sense for the government to be the spender of first resort during times of plenty.

  6. By Richard
    June 8, 2009 at 5:47 pm | permalink


    I agree with most of your points, but having had direct working relationship with a lot of those agencies, quite a few rely on public sources for survival. Far more than you imply including Ozone House, which is referenced in the article.

    I think it is debatable whether sub-contracting for services is cost efficient than providing it directly to clients. I think it is easier and cheaper, and in the end, you generally get what you pay for…

    The County has not established any clear priorities and has shown even less capacity to actually fund to them. Because of the continued revenue growth, the County became the patron for a lot of agencies and services which were either not needed or ineffective. Among the Board of Commissioners, there has never been a desire to take a hard look at real outcomes as it relates to spending on social services by the County. There has been an even greater reluctance to look at needs by geography. They just don’t really want or care to know, it has always been a state of blissful ignorance when it comes to social service spending.

    When faced with criticism, the supporters argue a false morality, which ends any rational discussion about needs in the community. Just because I am critical of spending on social services, it is based on my assertion that under the current structure it does very little to address real needs, and not because I’m insensitive or oppose assistance to county residents.

    Also…JCP, I understand your point, but the County was the last horse to cross that finish line. Oakland County and many others had projected the budget impact far sooner than the Washtenaw did. The Board strategically ignored the signs because they did not want to make difficult choices until was too late and they had no choice. As a consequence of their failure, the cuts were for more severe.

    I was not their fault that the revenue dropped, but it was a failure of leadership.

  7. June 8, 2009 at 9:00 pm | permalink

    Richard, I certainly don’t mean to imply any insensitivity to those who need human services. I had to vote against some agencies too, after hearing some heartbreaking pleas. And I was last on the BOC in 2004, so I have no information on how those issues are now administered.

    My reaction was based on some impatience with the generality of the proposition, after we made a good-faith effort to correct such problems. But it seems that the wheel keeps turning around and arrives again at the same spot.

  8. By Bob Martel
    June 9, 2009 at 8:28 am | permalink

    It’s my instinct that in many cases the non-profits can deliver services more cost effectively than can the County or City governments. Partly this is because by and large non-profits are non-union and, even if they are unionized, they pay lower wages and have less generous benefits than do the governmental agencies. The other factor is that non-profits tend to attract employees who are by nature and by need, highly committed to the mission of the organization, and finally, by need, non-profits are always struggling with their budgets (not just recently as in the case of our two local major governmental agencies) so they are used to being more efficient.

    But the point of my earlier comment has gone largely unnoticed and that is the apparent plethora of non-profits AND governmental agencies that offer services to those in need. Each one of these units has an overhead structure that needs to be fed taking resources away from direct service delivery. I think that it’s time for some group to take a look at this and “rationalize” the number of units (both non-profits and government departments) that provide services and start to combine them to gain some efficiencies. A $100 million City budget along with a similar County budget plus the dozens (?) of millions spent by local non-profits is a lot of money. In total these budgets likely reflect around $750 for every resident in the county. It seems to me that we could get more out of these dollars if we spent them wisely instead of worrying about how County Commissioners get reimbursed for their mileage to and from Commission meetings, for example.

  9. By Richard
    June 9, 2009 at 2:12 pm | permalink


    You are correct about the overlapping services, both by multiple non-profits and government service providers. It is particularly true of housing and homeless service providers.

    Though, from a County perspective, they only have control over the money that it spends on services and cannot control the growth of non-profits. This area is a particularly good haven for non-profits because of the amount of wealth in the area.

    Your point about the “nature” of employees who work in non-profits is completely false and presumptuous. I can tell you from experience that most of the employees for non-profits are both young and inexperienced or under qualified. Most use the time to gain experience before they move to better paying positions with a County, State or City agency. There are exceptions and there are very committed people, but again you will get what you pay for.

  10. By suzu
    June 12, 2009 at 6:09 pm | permalink

    The county Adminstration has repeatly showed poor judgement in the decisions they make and they are attacking the Unions to make them pay for Guenzel’s mistakes. THE COUNTY ADMINSTATION AND THE BOC NEEDS TO STOP BLAMING THE UNIONS AND PUT THE BLAME WHERE IT BELONGS WITH GUENZEL.
    Guenzel is stating that NON Unions are taking cuts and the Unions need to take the same cuts. What is not told to the public is that for manys years the Non Union pay increase are almost always 2 – 5 percent in addition to pay for performance. At the same time, Union employees were lucky to get 2% and RECEIVED NO PAY RAISE LAST YEAR AT ALL and this year received 0.05% (yes, 0.05% NOT 0.5%) What does Bob’s adminstration do to save money? They re-do their offices due to the leaving of the $200,000 Behen, (gotta have a new leather chair, right Bob).

    Make the cuts fair, when the cost from the Non Union to the Union equals out (when they are equal to the amounts we have lost in the past including small wage increases) then the Union members will be willing to at least listen.


    The county adminstration has supposely spent a million dollars on redoing the Towner Office in Ypsilanti, by putting new cabinets, carpets, new floor mats, new phones (there was a room piled high with the old phones), this building has been redone at least 3 times in the last 10 years. The JAIL that Guenzel is building was voted down by county residents, (do you think that the $12,000,000 crisis may have something to do with that). Bob Guenzel, whom, in his wisdom decided to built the JAIL,(which they won’t be to fill it because they won’t have the money to pay for the staff). A sitution which is just like the ZEEB RD BUILDING, (which is 3/4 empty at this time.)

    The county wastes money everyday, how much do you think the land scaping cost is for the county. Get over looking good and put down plain grass, not trees and plants that have special requirements with expensive pricetags attached.
    Nobody needs to have food and drink at meetings unless it paid by grant money.

    Stop the use of color printers and copiers. People do not need embossed certificate in color when they take a class, send a email to me. If my boss wants it, it sure is less expensive than getting through the county mail system (another waste of money). Stop the use of county cars by staff (Vera’s car) recently went to one of the offices in which a car is needed to provide services, not because the Deputy wants to do some shopping in a County car. The county empolyees have to take stupid survey every few years to judge how the county is working (called the OCS). Half the staff don’t fill it out because it does not make any diffences and the othef half (few really tell how they feel) because they are afraid of becoming a target. (I know this has happend, the county will deny but serveral supervisors have really dumped on the employees after the surveys) SO STOP THE SURVEY. STOP HAVING REPEAT SURVEYS DONE UNTIL YOU GET THE ANSWER THAT THE COUNTY WANTS TO HEAR. Many reports to the county including the county OCS has stated that the county is management heavy (NON-UNION), they won’t listen. The counties states that is laying off 24 Non Union, ten which are vacant and then they are adding 2 new Non-Union jobs. (So they give up 10 total). Their average pay is between $80,000 to $100,000. Stop picking on the same groups (most of whom the average pay is between $30,000 to $40,000)to take the cuts. Most support staff are already doing at least 2 employees work and YOU want to add more.


  11. By Judy
    June 17, 2009 at 1:02 pm | permalink

    Regarding the Zeeb Road property, why not move the Chelsea court there. I’m sure the property on Main Street in Chelsea would sell or lease quickly and on the plus side the Zeeb Road property has parking. let’s think of new uses.