Stories indexed with the term ‘Washtenaw Head Start’

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]

Leases OK’d for Head Start, County Offices

The Washtenaw County board of commissioners took action on two leases at its Aug. 7, 2013 meeting.

The board approved the 10-year lease of a county-owned Head Start building at 1661 Leforge Ave. in Ypsilanti to the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. [.pdf of lease agreement] The WISD is taking over management of the Head Start program from the county, which has administered it for over four decades. After considerable debate, the board made the decision in late 2011 to relinquish the Head Start program.

The county took out bonds to pay for the construction of the $2.29 million Head Start facility in 2002. Ten years remain on the bond repayment for a total of $1.66 million.

WISD will begin making payments … [Full Story]

Long Debate, But County Transit Moves Ahead

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (July 11, 2012): Two agenda items dominated the discussion at the recent county board meeting: (1) an interim plan for the Washtenaw Head Start, reducing staff as the county prepares to hand over the program to a new entity, and (2) documents related to a proposed countywide transit authority.

Michael Ford, Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz, Dan Smith

From left: Michael Ford, CEO of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority; Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz, AATA’s community outreach coordinator; and Washtenaw County commissioner Dan Smith. Smith proposed several amendments to the four-party agreement and articles of incorporation, which form the foundation for a new county public transit authority. All of the amendments were defeated. (Photos by the writer.)

After a 2.5-hour debate, county commissioners on a 7-4 vote gave initial approval to a four-party agreement and articles of incorporation that lay the foundation for a broader public transit authority in this area – tentatively called the Washtenaw Ride Transportation Authority. Voting against the agreement and articles of incorporation were Alicia Ping, Wes Prater, Dan Smith and Rob Turner. The board also set an Aug. 1 public hearing to gather feedback on the agreement. A final vote is expected to take place at that Aug. 1 meeting.

The other parties in the agreement include the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, which both would contribute existing millages to the new authority. The fourth party to the agreement is the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, which is spearheading this effort and would shift about $200 million in assets to the new entity. The governing bodies of those three parties have already approved the transit documents. [.pdf of four-party agreement and articles of incorporation]

The board debated several amendments put forward by Dan Smith, but none of the amendments secured enough votes to pass. One of the main arguments against making any changes came repeatedly from Leah Gunn, who noted that amendments made by the county board would require that the other three parties reconsider the documents. She called it a “foolish waste of time.”

Smith argued that this was the first time that formal, representative input has been heard from communities outside of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. The amendments were intended to make the new transit authority more attractive to smaller municipalities, who’ll have the option of opting out. Smith raised concerns that the current governance structure doesn’t provide the best possible representation for taxpayers.

Another issue drawing heated discussion related to Head Start, which provides pre-school services to 561 local children, ages 3-5, and their families. Last year, the board voted to relinquish its 46-year administration of the program on July 31, 2012. But the transition to a new administrator – a process overseen by the federal Head Start program – hasn’t moved as quickly as expected. So the county agreed to a one-year extension to continue administering the program, through July 31, 2013.

On July 11, the county board was asked to approve changes to the program from Aug. 1, 2012 through July 31, 2013 – as part of authorizing a federal grant application for the program. Ronnie Peterson cast the sole vote against the changes, and objected strenuously to any program cuts. He voiced his concerns at length, and asked – as he has in the past – that independent experts be brought in to discuss how the changes will impact the children. He also vowed to try to keep Head Start under the county’s administration, rather than relinquishing control. The issue will be addressed at an Aug. 2 working session, but it’s unlikely that the board will reverse its decision to cut ties with Head Start.

Other commissioners objected to Peterson’s contention that they didn’t care about poor children. Rob Turner urged board chair Conan Smith to form a coalition of local educators and government leaders to tackle the problem of educational disparities within the county.

Separately, the board passed a resolution supporting the selection of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District as the next local Head Start administrator. The selection will be made by federal Head Start officials.

In other action, commissioners heard public commentary and gave initial approval to exempt bed & breakfasts and cottages from Washtenaw County’s 5% accommodations tax. In a separate vote, the board set a public hearing for Aug. 1 to seek input on the proposed ordinance change. A final vote on the resolution is expected at the board’s Aug. 1 meeting.

That Aug. 1 meeting will also include a public hearing and vote on a brownfield financing plan for a residential development at 618 S. Main St. in Ann Arbor. The apartment complex is located at the site of the former Fox Tent and Awning, north of Mosley between Main and Ashley, and is being put forward by Dan Ketelaar’s Urban Group Development Co.

In another development-related matter, the board authorized a contract with Sylvan Township related to debt repayment on bonds issued 11 years ago for a water and wastewater treatment plant. It’s another attempt to establish an arrangement under which Sylvan Township will repay the county for covering bond payments – contingent on Sylvan Township voters approving a 20-year, 4.4 mill tax that’s on the Aug. 7 ballot. [Full Story]

County OKs Interim Head Start Changes

Following up on previous discussions about the future of Washtenaw Head Start, the county board of commissioners approved changes to the program from Aug. 1, 2012 through July 31, 2013 – an interim period during which the county will continue to manage Head Start before handing it over to another administrative entity. The action was taken at the board’s July 11, 2012 meeting, as part of authorizing a federal grant application for the program. Ronnie Peterson cast the sole vote against the changes, and objected strenuously to any program cuts.

Separately, the board unanimously passed a resolution supporting the selection of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District as the next local Head Start administrator. The selection will be made by federal Head … [Full Story]

County Responds to Sylvan Twp. Debt Crisis

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (May 2, 2012): The agenda was a light one, but several items of information resulted in some lengthy discussions.

Ronnie Peterson, Rob Turner

From left: County commissioners Ronnie Peterson and Rob Turner. Turner has been the board's point person for dealing with a debt crisis in Sylvan Township. (Photos by the writer.)

Chief among those was a report on the debt crisis in Sylvan Township. The county picked up a $175,000 interest payment on May 1 that the township couldn’t afford to make, related to $12.5 million in bonds that were issued 11 years ago – and backed by the county’s full faith and credit – to build a water and wastewater treatment plant there.

Rob Turner – who represents District 1 on the county’s west side, where the township is located – reported that township officials hope to seek voter approval in August for a 20-year, 4.4 mill tax to cover the remaining payments. However, some commissioners expressed skepticism that township voters would approve a tax now, after rejecting a similar proposal in November. The county is also pursuing legal action for breach of contract, and is working with the township to reach a consent agreement that can be submitted to the court to outline a repayment strategy. If the millage doesn’t pass, it will be up to a judge to determine a tax levy. Commissioners were told that township residents will be assessed for the debt, one way or another.

In another report to the board, county administrator Verna McDaniel told commissioners that the county had agreed to a one-year extension to continue administering the Washtenaw Head Start program, through July 31, 2013. As part of the budget process last year, the county board had voted to relinquish its 46-year administration of the program on July 31, 2012. But the process to find another entity to administer Head Start has taken longer than expected, so the county reached an agreement with federal officials to operate the program another year.

McDaniel reported that the agreement waives a 20% local match of about $750,000 that the county had previously been required to provide. Because of that decrease there will be program changes, though details haven’t yet been worked out. While several commissioners praised the decision for easing the eventual transition to a new Head Start administrator, Ronnie Peterson expressed concern that the program’s high standards would be compromised.

The board also got an update on ongoing efforts to address how the county handles animal control services, in preparation to issue a request for proposals (RFP) later this year. Those services are currently being handled through a contract with the Humane Society of Huron Valley, which ends on Dec. 31, 2012. Board chair Conan Smith passed out a schedule for the board’s animal control policy task force meetings, with the first one set for Wednesday, May 9 from 8-10 a.m. at the county’s Learning Resource Center, 4135 Washtenaw Ave. The policy task force meetings will be open to the public.

Financial reports were also on the May 2 agenda, including the 2011 audit and an update on long-term liabilities. Wes Prater voiced concern that the county now has dramatically more in long-term liabilities than it did just five years ago. Total legacy liabilities, including pension and retiree health care benefits, have increased from $302.198 million at the end of 2007 to $346.572 million at the end of 2011.

Other items addressed during the meeting included: (1) an update from Yousef Rabhi on plans to put Project Grow gardens on the county-owned Platt Road site of the former juvenile justice center; (2) approval of up to $270,000 in bonds to fund an extension of the Sugar Creek drainage district in York and Augusta townships; (3) a resolution of support for the U.S. Clean Air Act; and (4) public commentary regarding the dangers of DTE Energy’s “smart” meters.

Commissioners also honored Hazel Bowman for her 25 years of volunteer service in the county’s foster grandparent program, giving her a standing ovation. [Full Story]

Transit Issue Raised at County Board

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Jan. 18, 2012): The Ann Arbor city council has been grappling with the issue of a four-party countywide transit agreement – a resolution regarding the accord is on Monday’s council agenda. And although Washtenaw County is one of the four parties being asked to approve the agreement, it hasn’t come before the county board yet as a formal resolution.

Stephen Kunselman, Mary Jo Callan

At the Washtenaw County board of commissioners Jan. 18, 2012 meeting, Ann Arbor city councilmember Stephen Kunselman talks with Mary Jo Callan, director of the joint Washtenaw County/city of Ann Arbor office of community and economic development. Kunselman was on hand to air concerns about the proposed countywide transit authority. (Photos by the writer.)

However, the issue emerged at the board’s Jan. 18 meeting when two people – including city councilmember Stephen Kunselman – spoke during public commentary to share their views with county commissioners. Among Kunselman’s points was a concern that Ann Arbor might end up shouldering the burden for countywide transit, if most other communities opt out.

A few commissioners responded to the public commentary. Alicia Ping – who represents a district covering Saline and several townships in southwest Washtenaw – indicated that many people in her district were not inclined to participate in a countywide transit authority. Wes Prater expressed concerns about the process so far, calling it convoluted and confusing.

The main action at the board’s Jan. 18 meeting also reflected ties between the county and Ann Arbor – a presentation and vote on the consolidation of county and Ann Arbor 911 dispatch services. The proposal, which was unanimously approved, called for entering into a contract with the city from Feb. 1, 2012 to Jan. 30, 2017. The city will pay $759,089 annually for dispatch services. In addition, the county expects to receive an increase of $677,893 annually from 911 fees. The Ann Arbor city council had already approved the agreement at its Dec. 5, 2011 meeting.

Sheriff Jerry Clayton told commissioners that he believes the dispatch model they’re developing will be among the best practices nationally, and will be replicated by other dispatch operations in the country. This partnership between Washtenaw County’s two largest public safety entities will strengthen core police services in the county, he said.

In other action, the board gave initial approval to one of the last remaining contracts with a union representing Washtenaw County employees – a two-year collective bargaining agreement with AFSCME Local 3052, representing 52 general supervisors. A final vote by the board is expected at its Feb. 1 meeting. Negotiations continue with four remaining bargaining units that have not yet reached an agreement on a new contract.

The board also approved a brownfield plan for Arbor Hills Crossing, a development in Ann Arbor at the corner of Washtenaw and Platt, and formally accepted a $3 million grant to support the Washtenaw County Sustainable Community project, which focuses on the Washtenaw Avenue corridor spanning Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Pittsfield Township and Ypsilanti Township. Arbor Hills Crossing will be located along that corridor.

County administrator Verna McDaniel updated the board on turning over the Washtenaw Head Start program to federal officials, a move that commissioners had approved last year as part of the budget process. The county will end its 46-year affiliation with Head Start on July 31. McDaniel reported that the Washtenaw Intermediate School District is interested in applying to take over the program locally, and that federal officials plan to issue a request for proposals (RFP) during the first quarter of this year.

Not mentioned during McDaniel’s update was the status of an investigation begun last year into actions of the program’s two top officials, director Patricia Horne McGee and Lovida Roach, the program’s second-in-command. Responding to a follow-up query from The Chronicle, Diane Heidt, the county’s human resources and labor relations director, said the allegations that prompted the investigation were “founded.” Heidt said the county could not release details, but that no misuse of funds was involved. Horne McGee retired at the end of 2011. Roach will remain on leave until the county relinquishes control of Head Start, and at that point she will also retire, Heidt said.

The meeting also included a transition of sorts. Commissioner Leah Gunn has typically taken on the parliamentary action of moving the agenda at each of the board’s meetings, which entails reading off the agenda items. Gunn, who is not running for re-election this year, announced that Wednesday’s meeting was her “farewell agenda” – she would be relinquishing that task for the remainder of her tenure on the board. [Her term runs through the end of 2012.] After she completed the task this final time, Yousef Rabhi teased her, saying Gunn “moved the agenda very well.” [Full Story]

Two Head Start Managers Put on Leave

An internal investigation characterized as a personnel matter has resulted in two Washtenaw Head Start managers – including the program’s director – being put on administrative leave earlier this week.

Head Start director Patricia Horne McGee and senior management assistant Lovida Roach (who is Horne McGee’s second-in-command) were placed on administrative leave on Tuesday, Dec. 13. Roach was put on leave in the morning, while Horne McGee was put on leave around 5:30 p.m. the same day, according to Diane Heidt, the county’s human resources and labor relations director. Cassandra Sheriff, site director for the Ypsilanti Head Start location, is acting as interim director.

Heidt said an investigation has been underway since early October, in response to allegations that required the human resources … [Full Story]