County Board Weighs $103M Budget

At their Oct. 2, 2013 meeting, Washtenaw County administrator Verna McDaniel  presented a four-year general fund budget to county commissioners, for the years 2014-2017. The board discussed but ultimately postponed giving initial approval to the $103,005,127 million budget for 2014, which represents a slight decrease from the 2013 expenditures of $103,218,903.

A total of 8.47 full-time-equivalent jobs will be put on “hold vacant” status, and a 0.3 FTE position will be eliminated.

The recommended budgets for the following years are $103,977,306 in 2015, $105,052,579 in 2016, and $106,590,681 in 2017. The budgets are based on an estimated 1% annual increase in property tax revenues. [.pdf of draft budget summary]

McDaniel had previously indicated that the county would need to find $3.9 million in structural savings in 2014. On Oct. 2, she reported that $4.13 million in operating cost reductions had been identified. Those include: (1) $2.89 million in proposed departmental reductions; (2) $688,000 in estimated increased revenues from fees and services, (3) $450,000 in reductions to county infrastructure allocations, and (4) $100,000 in cuts to “outside agency” allocations.

Among the recommended departmental reductions, $819,000 is estimated to come from putting eight positions in the sheriff’s office on hold-vacant status. Another $1.1 million is expected to come from health insurance premium-sharing.

The outside agency reductions include decreasing the annual amount for mandated animal control services – paid to the Humane Society of Huron Valley – from $500,000 to $470,000. According to the county’s financial staff, the $30,000 difference will be made up from revenues contributed to HSHV by other local government units in the county.

Another $30,000 in cuts comes from the allocation to the Barrier Busters program – from $120,000 in 2013 to $90,000 in 2014. The budget calls for cutting that allocation to $50,000 in each of the following three years.

This year, the county is supporting the Delonis Center homeless shelter in Ann Arbor with $51,230 from the general fund budget. In 2014, that amount will increase to $160,000, then subsequently increase to $200,000 in each of the following three years. The county is counting the $40,000 difference between the 2014 budget and the 2015-2017 budgets as a “savings” in 2014 because the county, prior to 2012, had supported the center at $200,000 annually.

There are also several proposed changes to the county’s budget policies. Highlights include:

  • preparing the budget in four-year cycles, rather than the previous two-year periods.
  • increasing the amount of a professional services contract that triggers the need for board notification from $25,000 to $50,000.
  • adding a provision to give commissioners a seven-day period in which to review any contract over $150,000.
  • increasing the target of the general fund’s fund balance from 8% to 20% of general fund expenditures.

Commissioner asked a wide range of questions before their vote to postpone, and debated the merits of a four-year budget. They’re expected to take up the budget resolution again on Oct. 16. They’ll also be discussing budget-related issues at their Oct. 3 working session.

A public hearing on the budget is set for Oct. 16, with final board approval likely on Nov. 20.

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