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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 09/25/13
$631 million budget
by CHRIS GRAYCounty commissioners have approved of a balanced $631 million budget that includes increases in wages for some but cuts in salaries for others.
Observer Staff Writer
The 2014 Macomb County budget was approved by the Board of Commissioners on Sept. 12 with a surplus of nearly $50,000, but with changes in wages for county offices.
The budget differs from the document proposed by County Executive Mark Hackel in July. A total of $816,079 was reduced from the general fund by commissioners, mainly in salaries and benefits. Of that, $350,234 was slashed in the county health department while $150,000 was cut from Hackel's office.
Commissioners made an additional cut of $50,000 to the contract services for the executive's office as well, bringing the total to $200,000.
Al Lorenzo, assistant county executive, said the reduction seemed to be a politically motivated action rather than budgetary. He said the executive's office budget of $1.4 million has remained relatively unchanged in the past couple of years, so the cut would have an impact.
"It's not enough money to run the executive's office for a full year, and at some point we're going to have to find additional funding," he said.
Hackel can veto the budget changes or seek budget adjustments. Lorenzo said the executive's office would have a better idea of what action to take in the coming weeks.
Board of Commissioners Chair David Flynn said the changes made by the board only affected a tenth of 1 percent of the budget, and were the result of 16 meetings and 25 hours of examining the budget.
"With the $150,000 for staffing reduction, if their systems aligned with the clerk, treasurer and countywide officials they wouldn't have to lay one person off," he said. "They just decided to pay their employees more than any other county department."
District 7 County Commissioner Don Brown voted against the cut, saying it was made due to "hard feelings" between the branches of government ever since the county executive's office was established.
"We need to be working collectively together, and I don't think that is going to help the process along," he said. "I thought it was kind of punitive."
Veterans services saw a cut of $65,845. However, the change results in more funds channeled directly to serving veterans as opposed to paying internal county costs.
Commissioners added $766,533 to the general fund. The largest was to the prosecutor's office at $250,000 for salaries and benefits, followed by $222,226 in salary and benefits to the clerk's office.
County officials justified the increase to the prosecutor's office due to the office running at its lowest level in 20 years. Officials said the clerk's office increase will result in shorter lines due to additional staff implementations and improvements to E-filing.
"The Board of Commissioners addressed some essential needs in county government such as the clerk's or prosecutor's office," Flynn said. "Obviously this isn't a fix to the problem, but it does help stop the bleeding."
Commissioners also approved of increasing its funding by $66,000 for independent audits of county funds.
Lorenzo said in three years the county has gone from being nearly out of cash to having a balanced budget that doesn't use fund balance, has a surplus and gives the county a AAA bond rating.
"It's a county that is in one of the most enviable of financial situations of any local government in the state," Lorenzo said.
The fund balance will end at 42 percent, much higher than the 15 to 20 percent benchmark.
This is the first year the budget was reviewed as a consolidated document including year-end budgets for the special revenue and enterprise funds. The special revenue and enterprise funds were not changed from Hackel's proposed budget.