Stories indexed with the term ‘mandated service’

County Board Priorities Emerge at Retreat

Washtenaw County board of commissioners budget retreat (March 7, 2013): County commissioners continued their work to lay a foundation for the 2014-2015 budget, in a three-hour retreat that covered a wide range of issues – including the possibility of a new millage, bonding or other revenue sources.

Conan Smith, Ronnie Peterson, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Washtenaw County commissioners Conan Smith (D-District 9, Ann Arbor) and Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6, Ypsilanti). (Photos by the writer.)

The retreat comes in the context of a projected $24.64 million general fund deficit over a four-year period from 2014 through 2017. A much smaller general fund deficit of $3.93 million is projected for 2014, but county administrator Verna McDaniel hopes to identify $6.88 million in structural changes for that year – a combination of new revenues and cuts in expenditures. If that happens, the larger projected deficit would be addressed, because those cuts and revenue increases would compound and carry over into future years.

The retreat didn’t aim to identify dollar amounts or even specific programs to be cut or supported. Rather, the conversation – which included small-group work – was designed to elicit broader priorities of the board. Commissioners did not explicitly reference priorities that had been developed for the previous 2012-2013 budget cycle, though some common themes emerged. [.pdf of 2012-2013 budget priorities]

Several commissioners stressed the importance of strategic investment to create an environment that supports the local economy. Transportation, education, and housing – particularly on the county’s east side, in the Ypsilanti area – were all cited as critical to economic development efforts. Funding strategies were floated, including the possibility of a human services millage, road tax, or “social impact” bond. Also discussed was the possibility of absorbing the road commission into county government operations.

The retreat follows a budget briefing that McDaniel and her financial staff had given to commissioners at their Jan. 16, 2013 meeting. The board has also discussed the budget process at two working sessions earlier in the year, and will follow up the retreat with a working session in April. McDaniel is expected to deliver a budget proposal to the board in September. The board must adopt the budget by the end of 2013. [Full Story]

County Board OKs Humane Society Contract

At its Feb. 15, 2012 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners approved a $415,000 contract with the Humane Society of Huron Valley that will provide animal control services for the county just through Dec. 31, 2012. The county’s previous contract with HSHV, for $500,000 annually, expired on Dec. 31, 2011. Since then, the two entities have been operating under a $29,000 month-by-month contract.

County officials say the new contract will provide time for ongoing talks to develop a longer-term solution to animal control services in Washtenaw County, including services that are mandated by the state. During the rest of 2012, the county will work with HSHV to determine the cost of an animal service unit, and eventually will issue a … [Full Story]

County Board Updated on Humane Society

At their Dec. 7, 2011 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners were briefed on negotiations between the county and the Humane Society of Huron Valley, over a new contract for animal control services. It was not an item on the agenda, but commissioner Ronnie Peterson requested an update during the meeting.

Board chair Conan Smith reported that HSHV board chair Mike Walsh had been sent a draft RFP, including a “scope of work” for animal control services that the county believes are mandated by the state. [.pdf of draft RFP] Representatives from the county and HSHV are planning to meet soon to continue negotiations, Smith said. HSHV’s current contract, for $500,000 annually, ends on Dec. 31. The county has budgeted a total of … [Full Story]

County Board Strategizes on 2012-13 Budget

Washtenaw County board of commissioners budget retreat (Feb. 9, 2011): For two hours last Wednesday evening, commissioners continued a discussion on priorities aimed at guiding budget decisions – both long-term and immediate – for county government.

Bill Reynolds

Bill Reynolds, Washtenaw County's deputy administrator, with a framed copy of the county's "guiding principles."

The discussion was another step toward developing a framework that county administrator Verna McDaniel and her staff can use in their budget planning for 2012 and 2013, when the county faces a projected $20.9 million deficit. The session followed a five-hour Jan. 29 retreat. The board also plans to continue their budget talks on Feb. 23, after their regular administrative briefing.

Conan Smith, chair of the board, told the group he hoped they could form an outline of their priorities – not in terms of programs, but at a policy level. He said that focusing on specific programs at this point would limit the administration’s flexibility for future restructuring.

During the two-hour session, commissioners talked about the importance of providing a safety net of services for residents who are most in need – perhaps through a combination of the county’s own services, and partnerships with outside agencies. Though some commissioners expressed concerns about privatizing, there seemed to be consensus about exploring ways to market the county’s infrastructure services – like payroll processing and human resources – to other local municipalities.

They discussed the need for more self-reliance on local resources, as opposed to state and federal funding – while acknowledging the dependence that many county programs have on state and federal grants. The board also talked about the importance of balancing short-term budget needs with long-term investments that could bring more significant structural savings in future years.

Also during Wednesday’s retreat, some commissioners noted the importance of keeping all budget discussions in public view. The retreats – unlike the board’s regular meetings and working sessions – are not televised, though they are open to the public. In addition to county commissioners, the retreats are attended by other elected officials and county staff. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor 2012 Budget: 15th District Court

Editor’s note: The Ann Arbor city council has held two retreats to discuss the city’s FY 2012 budget – one in early December 2010 and another in early January 2011. A summary of the material covered in those retreats is provided in previous Chronicle coverage: “Ann Arbor: Engaging the FY 2012 Budget.”

Leading up to the city administrator’s proposed budget in April, the city council is also holding a series of work sessions on the budget. Their typical scheduling pattern is for the weeks between council meetings. But the work session on the 15th District Court was held just before the council’s Feb. 7, 2011 meeting.

Judge Christopher Easthope Ann Arbor 15th District Court

Former city councilmember Chris Easthope was elected in 2008 to serve as a judge on Ann Arbor's 15th District Court. In this photo, Easthope was pointing out other judges, the magistrate and staff of the court, who attended the Feb. 7 work session along with Easthope. (Photo by the writer.)

An hour before the city council’s regular meeting on Feb. 7, 2011, scheduled to start at 7 p.m., councilmembers received a presentation from Chris Easthope on the financial picture for the 15th District Court. The court is funded primarily, but not completely, by the city. Last year, the city’s approved FY 2011 budget for the 15th District Court was $3,776,080, or around 4.5%, of the city’s $81,449,966 general fund budget.

Salaries for the three judges on the court – Easthope, Julie Creal and Elizabeth Hines – are set and paid by the state of Michigan. The judges, along with other key court staff, also attended the work session.

Easthope stressed to councilmembers that he understood the difficult position the council is in, having served on the city council himself. [First elected in 2000 to a Ward 5 seat on the city council, Easthope won a narrow victory in the 2008 race for the 15th District Court judgeship.]

The basic picture Easthope sketched out for the council was of a court that had already reduced its budget – from $4.1 million in FY 2008 to $3.8 million in FY 2011, the current fiscal year. Easthope estimated the needed budget for the court in the next two years at around $3.7 million.

Measures already implemented include optimization of staffing that has allowed a reduction in full-time employees from 40 FTEs four years ago to 32 FTEs today. Easthope also stressed that the court’s probation program, even though it is not mandated by the state, actually saves citizens money, because it offers an alternative to fines (which many defendants aren’t in a financial position to pay anyway) and jail (which may not be the best solution for mentally ill defendants). [Full Story]