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Posted: 07/10/13

Hackel presents $631
million budget for 2014

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      A 2014 budget for Macomb County will dip into the black ink while avoiding a dip into rainy day funds.
       County Executive Mark Hackel proposed a balanced $631 million budget on July 1 that won't reduce services or use fund balance, but eliminates 19.5 positions.
       The budget shows an overall surplus of $58,000 and the removal of a forecasted $9 million deficit. The Board of Commissioners has until the end of September to approve the budget.
       Hackel pointed out his and the financial offices have presented a budget without using rainy day funds since 2011 when the budget had a $13 million gap.
       "We've been able to manage this budget by dealing with some of the structural issues," Hackel said.
       The budget consolidates the annual budget as well as the special enterprise budget and calls for 19.5 positions to be eliminated mostly through attrition. The county has cut 450 positions since 2006.
       "We would certainly all like to have more employees, but at this point in time we're not going to go to old, bad practices," Hackel said.
       Other cuts in this year's budget include stopping a $4 million contribution to capital funding, $2.5 million from health care due to Public Act 152 and $1 million in juvenile detention costs.
       "Some of the things were as a result of working with county-wide elected officials<who are all in need of personnel, we understand that<and the labor groups," he said.
       Cost increases also have to do with employees, with health care inflation for retirees, pension contributions by $2.2 million and six furlough days for a loss of $3 million.
       Increases in revenue are expected from fee collections, a stagnant taxable value on properties and jumps in state revenue sharing by $576,000 and liquor tax collection by $350,000.
       Revenue will decline, however, by roughly $750,000 due to changes in personal property tax laws.
       Finance Director Pete Provenzano said with the county budget stabilized, his offices are now dealing with $500 million in unfunded liability for retiree health care funding from 2010.
       "It's something I've been talking about for a couple years now," he said.
       Provenzano said in order to handle the cost, new hires will not have coverage for spouses and will contribute to their retiree medical plans.
       Beginning in 2015, the county will also contribute $3 million from the general fund to pay down the liability.
       "With budgets the way they are we really can't afford to pay it down quickly," he said.
       Board of Commissioners Chairperson David Flynn said the board has 90 days to approve the budget. It is expected to be before the finance committee on July 11.
       "The board is looking forward to a thorough vetting process where we deliberately go through each department in a very analytical way," he said.
       The board overrode vetoes Hackel made last month on ordinances that call for more information in the budget and quarterly reports.
       Flynn said he hadn't reviewed the budget as of July 2, but noted if it didn't contain what the ordinances ask for it could delay approval of the budget.
       "It will be hard for the board to pass a budget without significantly more detail," he said.


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