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Posted: 02/26/14

County agrees on budget
operation amendments

Observer Staff Writer
      Negotiations have settled three years of unresolved budget issues in Macomb County that will lead to transparency for residents.
       The Board of Commissioners agreed upon ordinance amendments for budget and contracting issues on Feb. 6 that were reached in conjunction with the executive's office.
       Board Chair Dave Flynn said the amendments are the result of three months of intense negotiations that saw concessions from both sides of the government.
       "This provides a level of openness in government that will serve for generations to come," he said.
       Transparency has been improved on the county's $631 million budget, with personnel details like salaries, benefits and overtime for all county departments as well as the cost of Department of Road projects all broken down in one document. The information will be available to the public on the county website.
       Additionally, some budget processes have been streamlined. The county executive can approve of grant activities under $35,000, and capital projects under $250,000 will not require board approval.
       In emergency situations, like the fire at the old County Administration Building in April, the executive's office has more freedom to resolve the issue.
       Non-emergency but time-sensitive contracts have been defined, and can be approved by a select number of county officials like the board chair. This will assist in obtaining funds from sources like the Michigan Department of Transportation that red tape would cause the county to lose.
       Other amendments increased fund transfer limits to $100,000 or 10 percent, whichever is greater, and vendors will be required to list all potential sub-contractors. Lawsuit settlements will now be approved by the board.
       "Each one of these issues could've been litigated, and that was avoided by reasonable people coming to the table and agreeing to acceptable terms," Flynn said.
       Mark Deldin, deputy county executive, handled the negotiations for the executives office. He said sincere dialogue and months of good communication led to a document both parties could approve.
       "I assured the chairman of the board that with these new ordinances that were revised and voted on and passed that there would not be any vetoes coming from the executive's office," he said.
       Flynn and Deldin said the compromises are a step toward easing friction between the two branches. Prior disagreements in 2012 led to the county spending more than $322,000 in court battles to settle disputes on the charter.
       "That is good for the public because if we can resolve the differences through communication and trust it's the less that we're going to spend on legal fees and court costs," Deldin said. "That is just good government."
       The amendments keep conditions granted through a Court of Appeals decision made in 2012. These include board approval for any contracts above $35,000 or any purchasing agreements adding up to $35,000 over the course of a year.
       The Court of Appeals stemmed from the executive's office filing a lawsuit of the board overriding his vetoes on how the board handled contracts and purchase agreements.

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