Stories indexed with the term ‘general fund balance’

County Board Postpones Spending Proposals

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Aug. 7, 2013): A packed agenda and lengthy debate on several items led to a meeting lasting over five hours, with some issues postponed until September.

Alicia Ping, Conan Smith, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Commissioners Alicia Ping (R-District 3) and Conan Smith (D-District 9). Smith brought forward a proposal to allocate money from the general fund’s reserves to pay for previously cut social service programs, but the proposal didn’t win support from Ping or most other commissioners on Aug. 7. (Photos by the writer.)

Following an unexpected proposal from the floor and considerable discussion, commissioners gave initial approval to authorize a $654,670 increase in 2013 general fund revenues and expenses, bringing the total general fund budget to 103,218,903. [.pdf of 2013 budget adjustment chart]

Despite the better-than-anticipated revenue picture, the administration is still projecting a deficit of $3.9 million for next year’s 2014 budget.

Generally, mid-year budget adjustments are recommended by staff and are typically dispatched with minimal discussion. However, a proposed amendment by Conan Smith of Ann Arbor (D-District 9) would have transferred money from the general fund’s unearmarked reserves to restore over $1 million in funding to programs that had been previously cut. He argued that restoring this funding was possible in light of $2.3 million in higher-than-expected property tax revenues this year.

Several commissioners expressed general support for Smith’s intent, but cautioned against acting quickly and not giving sufficient strategic thought to these allocations. They had seen the proposal for the first time that night. Smith argued that he had asked for the budget adjustment resolution to be pulled from the agenda prior to the meeting, because he had wanted more time for discussion. Chastising other commissioners for not taking action to spend the unanticipated revenues, Smith noted that the board had identified human services as a priority, but was instead funding things like software and facilities. He told commissioners it was “one of the worst nights I’ve ever had on this board.”

The board voted down his proposal, but then postponed a final vote on the overall budget adjustments until its Sept. 4 meeting. Several commissioners indicated an interest in working with Smith to address some of his concerns before then.

The 2013 budget was also a highlight during a second-quarter update by the county’s financial staff, who reported that they’re now expecting a $245,814 general fund surplus for the year. In addition, the 2013 general fund budget is not expected to need a previously planned use of $2.8 million from the fund balance. [.pdf of 2Q budget presentation]

In other business, commissioners held a lengthy debate over a resolution for a new case management software system for the Washtenaw County Trial Court that’s estimated to cost $2.3 million. An original resolution had outlined funding sources for the project. However, prior to the meeting some commissioners expressed concern about the use of capital reserves to help fund the purchase, so an alternative resolution was brought forward at the meeting that did not include the references to funding sources.

However, Dan Smith (R-District 2) objected to passing a resolution that approved the purchase but did not include a funding plan. Alicia Ping (R-District 3) was concerned that there had been no clear source of funding identified for the system’s annual licensing fee, estimated at $188,933.

An amendment to that alternative resolution – made after considerable discussion and procedural maneuverings – stated that the board approved the selection of this software system, and directed the county administrator to develop a maintenance and implementation plan, and to identify funding sources by the time of the board’s Sept. 4 meeting. That amendment was not enough to win support from D. Smith and Ping, however.

The resolution received initial approval on Aug. 7, but did not garner sufficient votes for final approval. It will be considered again on Sept. 4.

The board also debated – and ultimately approved – two long-term leases: (1) the 10-year lease of a county-owned Head Start building at 1661 Leforge Ave. in Ypsilanti to the Washtenaw Intermediate School District; and (2) a 9-year lease with Dahlmann Apartments Ltd. for space in the City Center Building at 220 E. Huron in Ann Arbor.

Other action included approval to back up to $3.3 million in bonds to pay for five drain-related and “green infrastructure” projects in Ann Arbor, and authorization to amend a contract between Washtenaw County, Lyndon Township and Sylvan Township related to a sewer system in those townships.

Several grants were accepted during the meeting: (1) about $2.5 million in federal workforce development funding; (2) a $665,704 federal grant to pay for two outreach workers with the Washtenaw Health Plan (WHP), who will focus on increasing children’s participation in federal Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as children’s Medicaid; and (3) a $20,000 capacity-building grant from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation for work on the Washtenaw food policy council.

Mary Kerr, president of the Ann Arbor Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, was on hand with several representatives of the United Association (UA) Union of Plumbers, Pipefitters, Sprinkler Fitters, Steamfitters, and Service Technicians. The UA is holding its 60th annual training program in Washtenaw County from Aug. 10-16. It’s the 24th year that UA has held its training program here. More than 2,500 participants will generate an estimated $5 million into the local economy, Kerr said: “The UA leaves this community in much better condition than when they came at the beginning of the week.” [Full Story]

City Council Mulls Zoning: Marijuana, Height

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Oct. 18, 2010): On Monday night, the council gave an initial approval to a set of zoning laws that are intended to regulate medical marijuana use in the city. It also gave the city attorney direction to pursue the development of a license for medical marijuana facilities. All ordinances require an initial approval – a first reading – followed by a second and final reading at a later meeting.


Before the meeting, Marcia (spelling corrected) Higgins (Ward 4) chats with Sue McCormick (seated), the city's public services area administrator. McCormick is filling in for city administrator Roger Fraser, who is ill. (Photos by the writer.)

Also related to zoning was the council’s second-reading consideration of changes in the city’s zoning code for areas outside the downtown, across most of the city’s zoning classifications. The changes affect area, height and placement (AHP). The final approval of the AHP zoning overhaul had been postponed from council’s first meeting of the month, on Oct. 5, at the request of Marcia Higgins (Ward 4).

At Monday’s meeting, Higgins brought forth amendments that confined a height cap on buildings to areas adjacent to residential areas. The amendments would allow taller buildings in some non-residential areas, like Briarwood Mall. After some deliberation on the merits of the amendments, Higgins withdrew them, and the council elected to postpone the measure. With Higgins’ amendments, the proposal would be substantively different from the proposal that had already received council approval at first reading, and would thus require an additional reading before final adoption.

In other matters before the council, it was also Higgins who provided much of the impetus for conversation. Two items involved modification to the city’s budget by drawing upon the general fund reserve. One involved a $153,116 expenditure for the city’s planning department to fund corridor planning, and the other was a $160,000 item to purchase furniture for the 15th District Court, which will soon take up residence in the new municipal center at Fifth and Huron. The planning department money was approved over Higgins’ dissent, while the court’s expenditure was postponed, pending the production of an itemized list of what’s being purchased. The two items prompted discussion of the projected budget deficit for FY 2012, which the city’s CFO had estimated in May to be $5 million.

In other business, the council took the final step to enact a special assessment of property owners along Washtenaw Avenue to fund a portion of a new non-motorized path. The council also approved its part of a two-year extension to the consent agreement with Glen Ann Place, which gave site-plan approval for a project at the corner of Glen and Ann streets. Council also gave initial approval to stricter stormwater management rules for impervious surfaces in residential zoning districts.

Council chambers were filled at the start of the meeting with many members of the community who came to hear a proclamation and watch councilmembers vote on a resolution giving council’s support to a similar Michigan Civil Rights Commission resolution. The MCRC condemned the conduct of assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell, who has written blog posts targeting Chris Armstrong, an openly gay University of Michigan student leader. The Ann Arbor city council’s resolution also calls upon the state legislature to pass a proposed comprehensive hate crime bill and a school anti-bullying law currently before the state Senate. [Full Story]