County To Develop Four-Year Budget

Washtenaw County government is moving to a four-year budget planning cycle, a change from the current two-year cycle that’s been in place since 1994. Final approval to develop a four-year budget was given by the county board of commissioners at its May 1, 2013 meeting on a 7-2 vote. Dissenting were Ronnie Peterson and Rolland Sizemore Jr. The board had taken an initial vote on the issue at its meeting on April 17, 2013, with Peterson dissenting and Sizemore absent.

The board had been briefed on the issue at a Feb. 21, 2013 working session. County administrator Verna McDaniel has cited several benefits to a longer budget planning cycle, saying it would provide more stability and allow the county to intervene earlier in potential deficit situations. [.pdf of McDaniel's Feb. 21 presentation] State law requires that the board approve the county’s budget annually, but a quadrennial budget would allow the administration to work from a longer-term plan.

With a two-year approach, larger cuts must be made within a shorter timeframe to address anticipated deficits. McDaniel has argued that a four-year plan would allow the administration to identify potential deficits at an earlier date, and target savings that would compound over the longer period, making the overall budget more manageable. Currently, the budget is being developed for 2014-2017.

Commissioners have noted that this approval provides direction to develop a four-year budget plan, but at any time the board can decide to revert to the previous two-year cycle. One of the main concerns mentioned by commissioners, including Peterson, is the fact a four-year budget cycle doesn’t synch with the two-year election cycle for terms on the board.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]