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Posted on Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 5:55 a.m.

Washtenaw County to make $3.9M in budget cuts for 2014

By Amy Biolchini

While Gov. Rick Snyder was giving his State of the State address Wednesday night, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners received a report on a $3.9 million structural budget deficit it may face in 2014.

County Administrator Verna McDaniel gave commissioners a preliminary look on the county’s finances over the next four years Wednesday, and urged them to consider making a four-year budget plan instead of a two-year plan to give the county more fiscal stability.

The county will be spending $3.9 million more than its revenue forecast for 2014.

It’s not as tall of an order as the $17.5 million in cuts that the county faced two years ago at the beginning of its 2012-13 budget cycle.


General fund revenues by source, of which property tax accounts for 59 percent.

Courtesy of Washtenaw County

In a scenario McDaniel drafted, she said the deficit could compound over the next four years should no action be taken - which would result in a $9.3 million deficit in 2017.

McDaniel if the board chooses to make $6.9 million in cuts for the 2014 budget, the structural deficit would be eliminated from the county’s finances in the future.

It can be done, according to McDaniel, who presented this approach: Raise $1.2 million more in revenue while cutting operations by $2.96 million, employee compensation and benefits by $2.62 million and $100,000 from its funding of outside agencies.

Employees have made a number of concessions in previous budget cycles, including banked leave days.

McDaniel wants to eliminate furlough days and banked leave days for employees in future budget cycles - though personnel costs account for 67 percent, or $65 million, of the county’s general fund expenditures.


How the county spends its money: 54% is on public safety and 18% is on judicial services; 23% is for general government activities.

Courtesy of Washtenaw County

That’s a worry for McDaniel, as it’s a larger amount than the county’s greatest source of revenue: Property tax, which makes up 59 percent of incoming funds.

Property tax revenues continue to decline for the county, though McDaniel said she anticipates stabilization within the next four years.

A number of uncertainties with the state’s plans for personal property tax, as well as some federally-funded programs, are also in the mix as the board considers cuts.

The board seemed receptive to McDaniel’s presentation, but most commissioners kept their reactions and recommendations quiet during the Wednesday meeting.

The Commissioners will be convening in a retreat to hash out budget details in February. A budget will be finalized by September, and the public will be able to give comment in October before the board adopts the plan in November.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

With anticipated reduced revenues can the County Board of Commissioners reduce planned expenditures so that citizens will face a minimum increase in taxation? An examination of the County's budget posted on its website reveals the following examples of INCREASES over last year in expenditures for the present year: Information technology (+$433,830) Treasurer (+$112,359) Sheriff (+$1,793,007) How justified are these charges?


Sun, Feb 3, 2013 : 1 p.m.

Posted jan 17 2013 mmmm posted jan 24 ,2013 Ypsilanti rec center project should move along as planned ...!, dental clinic platt road WELLNESS CENTER fo COUNTY EMPLOYEES ?????? Ypsilanti recreation Center $ 12 millon Waterstreet ....????? WATCH


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 5:05 p.m.

Sing. That same old song. That same old song. That same old song when union negotiations are just around the corner. Sing. That same old song...


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 2 p.m.

Goofus, You are becoming tiring. You have made your point: you do not like unions. The unions are not the cause of the problem as you so ardently suggest.

Amy Biolchini

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

A four-year budget plan would definitely be a different approach for the county. There was some discussion last night at the meeting of Oakland County's switch to a three-year budget cycle and the stability it has afforded them, even as property tax revenues continue to fluctuate.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 2:13 p.m.

Although the pie charts are nice to look at, They are very hard to read. Any chance we could get a listing of revenues and expenses?

Amy Biolchini

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 5:01 p.m.

I had highlighted the largest portions of the pie graphs in the captions because of the small text. Washtenaw County is very open with its books -- complete lists of revenues, expenditures, etc. can be found on the county's website at under the "Of Interest" column on the right hand side. Click on "Open Book (Financial Transparency)."


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 11:50 a.m.

I thought I heard that the county budget was currently solvent. Why will we be facing a new deficit? I wish this article gave some kind of explanation.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

We're probably facing a "new deficit" primarily because union negotiations are just around the corner....

Amy Biolchini

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 4:59 p.m.

The county board was able to balance the budget for its 2012 and 2013 fiscal years by using both structural changes and one-time monies. For 2014 and 2015, the county is facing operational costs that are more than the revenue it is expecting to bring in. The county administrator wants the board to consider taking stronger actions now to prevent these kinds of structural deficits from recurring in each budget planning cycle.