Washtenaw County 2014-17 Budget: Initial OK

Following about three hours of debate and some minor amendments, Washtenaw County commissioners gave initial approval to a proposed four-year general fund budget, for the years 2014-2017. The 7-2 vote came over the dissent of Dan Smith (R-District 2) and Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6). The budget must be approved by the end of the year, and there are only two more board meetings scheduled: On Nov. 20 and Dec. 4.

The $103,005,127 million budget for 2014 – which represents a slight decrease from the 2013 expenditures of $103,218,903 – includes putting a net total of 8.47 full-time-equivalent jobs on “hold vacant” status, as well as the net reduction of a 0.3 FTE position. 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]

Most of the 8.47 FTEs that are proposed to be kept unfilled are in the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Jerry Clayton attended the Nov. 6 meeting and addressed the board, telling commissioners that his office can’t continue to absorb budget cuts without affecting services.

Aside from discussing the sheriff’s concerns, much of the board’s discussion focused on the issue of a four-year budget, which is being proposed for the first time as a way to improve long-term planning and stability. Ronnie Peterson in particular objected strongly to that approach, and prefers to maintain the current two-year budget process.

County administrator Verna McDaniel had initially presented the budget at the board’s Oct. 2, 2013 meeting. A public hearing was held on Oct. 15, 2013 but it was held after midnight and no one spoke. On Nov. 6, the board set a second budget hearing for Nov. 20.

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