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Posted on Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Washtenaw County officials approve budget with $430K cut to human services agencies

By Ryan J. Stanton

During a final budget meeting that lasted five hours, Washtenaw County commissioners expressed regret Wednesday night for the cuts they're making.

There were no last-minute efforts to save the day, not even to stop the heavily protested reductions in human services funding for nonprofit agencies.

"I was sitting here crying, hearing what you had to say, because it's really important that we take care of the humans in our community," Commissioner Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, told the large audience after more than an hour of public commentary.

Commissioners ultimately voted 10-0 to give final approval to the two-year budget for 2012 and 2013, the numbers unchanged from two weeks ago.


Yousef Rabhi

The budget includes elimination of the county's support for Washtenaw County Head Start starting in 2013, a controversial decision that drew more protest Wednesday night.

And it remains uncertain what will happen with the county's relationship with the Humane Society of Huron Valley, as there no longer are any funds earmarked for the agency.

General fund revenues and expenditures are balanced at $97.7 million in 2012, dropping off to $96.9 million in 2013.

The budget effectively addresses a $17.5 million structural deficit, about $8 million of which was met with concessions from employees.

County Administrator Verna McDaniel said though there are a small handful of position eliminations, no one working for the county is expected to be left without a job. She said as many as 100 employees will retire by Dec. 31, leaving many positions vacant.

The final budget reduces human services funding from $1.46 million to $1.03 million starting Jan. 1, dealing a blow to programs that address issues like homelessness, domestic violence and child abuse. Funding for the Delonis Center is being cut from $160,000 to $51,230.

Rabhi and other commissioners said the budget can always be amended, and they're going to continue to work to find a way to increase funding for human services.

"I want to take a stand with those individuals who are struggling out there, who are facing a long winter, who are facing no food," Rabhi said. "I want to be there for them."

Approval of the budget followed an emotional discussion and it came with four asterisks. That is, four commissioners noted their objections to certain parts.

Commissioner Ronnie Peterson, D-Ypsilanti, objected to cuts in funding for the Humane Society, Head Start and coordinated human services.

Commissioner Alicia Ping, R-Saline, objected to cuts in funding for animal control, a line item that was shifted away from the Humane Society and into the sheriff's office budget.

Commissioner Felicia Brabec, D-Pittsfield Township, objected to cuts in funding for animal control, Head Start and coordinated human services.


Conan Smith

And Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, objected to the cuts to Head Start.

Much of the final discussion on the budget surrounded the county's decision to cut funding for Head Start and the Humane Society.

Head Start is an early childhood program designed to help break the cycle of poverty by providing preschool children from low-income families with services to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional and educational needs.

The program serves more than 500 preschool children in Washtenaw County. The bulk of its budget is made up of federal funding, while about $528,000 comes from the county’s general fund — money that's being cut starting in 2013.

That means the county will continue to be the grantee for the program for one more year, but what happens in the following year is somewhat uncertain.

The county plans to announce to the federal government soon that it no longer will be the grantee for the program. The federal government eventually will send in a team to take over management of the program and send out a request for proposals to find another grantee. At that point, the county will have little or no influence in the process.

Some believe the Washtenaw Intermediate School District is a logical choice to take over Head Start, or it could be a university or a private nonprofit. Smith said it might end up being a provider the county doesn't like and the quality of services might be jeopardized.

Smith brought forward a proposal Wednesday that would have required a future vote of the county board before officially relinquishing Head Start to the federal government. He said the county had more homework to do to ensure the program's continued success.

But a majority of commissioners voted against Smith's proposal, arguing it would delay what they saw as an inevitable decision the county must make.

As for the cuts in animal control funding, a majority of commissioners agreed Wednesday they want the county to continue negotiations with the Humane Society.

The county's budget originally proposed reducing the line item for the Humane Society from $500,000 to $250,000 starting Jan. 1. Two weeks ago, a revised budget document showed the Humane Society's name crossed off with "mandated animal control" written in its place.


Verna McDaniel

The approved county budget shifts the $250,000 line item previously earmarked for the Humane Society into the sheriff’s office budget. Combined with $180,000 already in the sheriff’s budget for animal control, the county now has a $430,000 pool of money it's using to negotiate with the Humane Society, but so far there's been no agreement reached.

If no deal is reached with the Humane Society soon, McDaniel said the county will consider interim options for meeting its animal control mandates starting in January.

McDaniel said the county is in the process of drafting a request for proposals that could lead to the county contracting with a new service provider. But most commissioners have said they would like to see the county's relationship with the Humane Society continue.

"If this relationship ends this year, I have trouble seeing it coming back. We need to work productively together," Rabhi said.

McDaniel said county officials also are working on a way to find money for continued membership in the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

The county budget includes elimination of the $125,000 membership fee for SEMCOG, a regional planning body covering seven counties in Southeast Michigan, as well as another $10,000 the county pays to have SEMCOG act as the region's water quality management agency. McDaniel said county officials are in discussions with the water resources office and road commission on possible alternative sources of funding for SEMCOG.

Commissioner Dan Smith, R-Northfield Township, said the cuts approved Wednesday aren't the last of the difficult decisions the board must make. He reminded commissioners the county still faces a projected deficit of $11.6 million in 2014, with even more cuts to come in 2015.

"We're by no means out of the woods yet, and that leads to these very difficult choices — such as the Humane Society — that we're faced with," he said. "We all certainly would like to fund numerous causes, numerous organizations, numerous services that the county supports, numerous activities to higher levels. … We simply don't have the money to do so."

Commissioner Rolland Sizemore Jr., D-Ypsilanti Township, was absent.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 8:51 p.m.

I see no reason to re-elect any of these fools on the BOC.

Susan Karp

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 12:46 a.m.

How much money does the County have in reserve? Isn't that supposed to be used for emergencies? I think now is a time of emergency crisis, and that reserve fund should be used to fund these important services, and to honor the contract with the Humane Society.

Born A2

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

AGREED! Not honoring the contract with HSHV is a disaster in the making.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 11:41 p.m.

And they're going to allow folks to retire and then go back to work. Any discussions of rehire prior to the employee making the decision to retire should be considered an illegal act equivelent to "insider trading". Raises for accepting more responsibility should be disallowed. to cut the budget in these social areas and then provide "lucrative" job opportunities to retirees is reprehensible.

Linda Spector

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 9:57 p.m.

Shameful and short sighted. Words refuse to come to me. What happened to the Ann Arbor people told me about when I moved here 15 years ago? The one that valued education and people.....seems A2 is joining the rest of the country in where they place their values


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 11:59 p.m.

A2 is in the position they are with regard to educational funding, ironically, because in 1994, equality in school funding across the state seemed like a good idea. It's because our tax money goes to Lansing where it is redistributed to other school districts at a rate decided by Lansing -- that's why AAPS is in trouble. We have to get out of Prop A. It's killing AAPS not to be able to vote more $ for the schools.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 9:13 p.m.

PLEASE remember how these ELECTED commissioners treated this issue along with others that have outraged you when its election time. VOTE for change!


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 10:46 p.m.

Thanks. I will make a note of their names and keep it handy.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:46 p.m.

Head Start also offers services for children with disabilities, not just the at-risk. The kids have no voice or say in this. We are entrusted to make the best decisions for them and this is how it goes?


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:29 p.m.

It's our money, not theirs. I want my money to go to helping people (and animals) in need. They don't.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:07 p.m.

So when are the people on the board going to start taking pay cuts? Oh never mind that will not happen.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 6:44 p.m.

All those Democrats doing the Chop Chop Chop Hop....gotta love it. But if they had the cash man it would burn a hole in their pocket in a New York minute. The County government should be the Clerk's office, the Sheriff, the Courts/Jail, and the Road Commission....everything else should be cut to ZERO!


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 6:41 p.m.

OK, I'll admit right from the start that I am not an expert in any of this, but why not institute a program - similar to the one that raised so much money for art - to take a small percentage from various places to amass some money for people and animals. I find it unforgivable that we can find money for art, but let valuable programs for people and animals in need disappear. There must be something we can do. -Peace, Kitty


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:58 p.m.

That was the city's program and not the county's. It is very doubtful what the city did in the first place is even legal. The only real option is the cuts or raise taxes. I don't see a millage request by the county going anywhere.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 4:38 p.m.

I watched several hours of the debate last night, and perhaps most disturbing to me was that one of the commissioners (I think it was either Rabhi or Conan Smith) talked about the potential RFP for animal control and said that they would look for the "most cost-effective solution, but not necessarily the best solution". What that tells me is that the county is perfectly willing to turn the county's animal control into a temporary warehouse/slaughterhouse if they think it will save them a few pennies. (Emphasis, please, on THINK--I think they're in a rude awakening regarding the real cost of animal control in any form, however inhumane.)


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 10:15 p.m.

There are no raises, see <a href=""></a>

Beth Wilson

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 4:59 p.m.

Right, Lisa. The humane society already provides the most cost-effective services. These people have no morals or business sense. What they mean really is the &quot;cheapest option&quot;, which means the death chamber or selling our beloved pets to research facilities. Their administrators get raises. They are spending more in all sorts of places--except children, poor people, and homeless pets. At least the jail's budget will always be secure!

Beth Wilson

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 4:33 p.m.

As a once volunteer for St. Andrews food program, I was appalled to see Yousef Rabhi last night outwardly laugh at the person who stood up and spoke for hunger relief programs and then later demand that public comments be kept to words of gratitude for the hard work of the Commissioners. I do not live in Burns Park, but I hope that those residents are taking notice of 23-year-old with no real job experience and no sense of common decency oh…and…the democratic process and the first amendment who is now entrusted to make serious budgetary and public policy decisions. I would suggest this petulant young man get a real dose of life before he is handed over the responsibility of spending our hard earned tax dollars and understanding the real needs of the under-privileged. Please take note the next time you vote.

Yousef Rabhi

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 10:20 p.m.

Dear Beth Wilson, With all due respect to your feelings, I do want to clarify a few of your assertions. When that individual spoke, she began her statements with a joke. Everyone in the room laughed. To make it sound like I laughed heartlessly at those advocating for the hungry is inaccurate. My statements at the meeting speak for themselves. I have been a consistent and outspoken supporter of human services. Additionally, as stated in this article ("Rabhi and other commissioners said the budget can always be amended, and they're going to continue to work to find a way to increase funding for human services"), I intend to support a budget amendment that would reduce the cut to coordinated funding. Second, at no point did I &quot;demand that public comments be kept to words of gratitude". I would never make such an assertion. My words were simply an attempt to elevate the discussion and ask for more civility. I conveyed that negative comments and threats were not part of a productive dialogue. Rather, novel ideas to solve the issues we face were welcomed and encouraged. Please understand that it was NEVER my intent to limit free speech and I am sorry that you felt that way. I am an advocate for first amendment rights as you are. Third, I am distressed that you believe that I am unfit to serve based on my age and job experience. I would hope that you re-evaluate your position based on what I am able to accomplish in the position that I was elected to. I hope that you look into how I found $52K for the homeless shelter, how I supported moving $30K from SPARK to local agricultural programs or how I have supported human service funding time and time again. I wish you could see how I pour my heart into this work. I understand that this is an emotional time for our community and I simply hope that we can elevate our discussion to find common sense solutions to the real problems we face. Thank you for your advocacy!


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 3:20 p.m.

Ranzini: What was Sheriff Clayton's response to your query about his jail population? I don't want to hear any heart string or PC response, I want cold hard facts. There is absolutely no conclusive proof that Head Start is a deterent to crime or future school success.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

That study was based on 58 children from the Ypsi area. It did not take in account single parent homes. It did not take in account if parents were better off 5 years later. When I was first married with a child we would be considered poor. My wife and I have BA's from EMU. We were still looking for jobs. Naturally our children are doing well today. I dont put a lot of stock in that study. 58 children from one city. Not enough data.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 7:13 p.m.

@KeepingItReal: please advise if @DotDash's response doesn't satisfy you and I'll try to round up some more study data for you. From the details I've seen, it is pretty conclusive that Head Start works and gets children ready at or above peer group for school. Now, the fact that some of these children are later ruined by the public school system's inability to properly deal with low and moderate income children is a different serious problem that also needs to be fixed, and is in fact a major social justice issue that we must fix as soon as possible. I've got a lot of data which I've shared in my posts that the traditional Summer break plays a major role in the failure of the public schools to properly educate low and moderate income children. That is clearly documented to be the time period when they fall behind their peers.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 5:36 p.m.

The Perry study did not occur 50 years ago. The most recent update on that study was interviews with the children at age 40 in 2005. The HHS study I believe you are referring to tracked kids only until grade 1 (2002 to 2006). There were cognitive and social benfits for HeadStart kids over random controls at the end of the HeadStart year and a few that were measured at the end of 1st grade. Importantly, there were strong benefits for the subgroups of special needs kids and also those with the lowest cognitive abilities going into HeadStart -- and those benefits were still there at the end of the study. We don't have to nitpick the methodology and results to death; maybe it's good enough that we are talking about evidence not knee-jerk stuff. I'm sorry I maligned your rationality...


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 4:46 p.m.

dotdash. No, I don't just write whatever I think. The Perry study you refer to occurred 50 years ago. Although I know that it's a longitudinal study and are part of our history and there is some excellent documentation, you have to question whether it's still relevant today given the fact that we operate in a completely different environment. Also, recent studies by the department of health and human services (please go to their website and look up head start study or google the same) provides no conclusive evidence that children who attend Head Start are more successful in regular school or later in life. As a matter of fact, one of the most salient conclusion these studies is that any gains these students make while in head start are often lost once they enter the regular school setting and it only gets worse as they progress through our public education system. I'm not an opponent of Heat Start, quite the contrary. I just want to make sure that the program is working. There are some wonderful benefits from the program such as health screening, nutrition and parental support but we still don't know how these kids benefit or grow intellectually from the program. So far, our local director has not provided any proof to this effect.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 4:13 p.m.

KeepingItReal: do you just write whatever you think? Here are the results of one study: The Perry Preschool project found that, at age 19, young adults from low income families who had the Head Start experience vs. a randomized control group from the same socio-economic group and community had the following results. 61% of the Head Start group passed a functional competency test vs. 38% of the control group. 67% of Head Start group graduated from high school vs. 49% of the control group graduated. 38% of Head Start group entered post secondary education vs. 21% of the control group. 59% of Head Start group were employed vs. 32% of the control group. 18% of Head Start group were receiving welfare vs. 32% of the control group. 31% of Head Start group were arrested or detained vs. 51% of the control group. At age 19 the Head Start group experienced half the pregnancy rate of the control group


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 3:13 p.m.

Has anyone watched these meetings? It's such a dysfunctional group of people with no respect for their elected position, the people they serve, or even, each other. The way they handled the mandated animal control contract negotiations with HSHV is deeply disturbing. They should have created an RFP for mandated services well before the middle of November. Is this how they handle all their contract negotiations?

Jennifer Paillon

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 3:06 p.m.

&quot;We're by no means out of the woods yet, and that leads to these very difficult choices — such as the Humane Society — that we're faced with,&quot; he said. &quot;We all certainly would like to fund numerous causes, numerous organizations, numerous services that the county supports, numerous activities to higher levels. … We simply don't have the money to do so.&quot; This comment is discouraging - the contract for animal control services is not a &quot;cause&quot;, it is a contracted mandated service that the county must provide. Who will they possibly find to take on these services in the next 6 weeks? Why reinvent the wheel or pretend that the funds allocated for animal control are a &quot;gift&quot;? They are not, the County has the best animal facility in the state with the lowest cost per resident in the area. What other metrics will they be looking at in making this decision?


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:54 a.m.

The state mandate allows for these animals to be shot when found. Since the county has no shelter of its own, I imagine that's what the Sheriff's Dept will be doing.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

What about all the bums on the street. They are too lazy to work &amp; we keep paying their way!!!


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:52 a.m.

Many of those &quot;bums&quot; are veterans. There are also many homeless people who cannot find work. Some are the mentally ill for whom services are no longer funded. Why attack them?


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 6 p.m.

The are called 99% of the occupy movement. I know its diffucult to tell them apart for the bums. Maybe they are one in the same.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

You may not like it but you can't spend what you don't have. Unless you're the Federal Government of course.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

I think it would be helpful in articles like this to mention what parts of the county budget were not cut (or not cut so much). It's easy to forget what the county funds vs. the city vs. the state. Thanks, It is desperate times when money for Head Start is cut. I believe that studies show a 4-to-1 savings later on HeadStart dollars. Kicking the the can down the road, to a point where it is more expensive.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 1:05 p.m.

Does this mean &quot;The Friend of the Court&quot; will take even LONGER to return phone calls and review paper work? I agree with Stephen Lange Ranzini and the state Washtenaw county has to many judges. Most of them do not know how to &quot;Judge&quot; they only know how to &quot;Rubber Stamp&quot; an one hour interview FOC staff report?


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 12:50 p.m.

What a bunch. Shedding real tears because non-governmental spending was cut. Where are the tears shed for employees who lost their jobs and citizens who, once again, will get far reduced GOVERNMENTAL services because this group, like Ann arbor City Council simply have ignored their duty to run their respective municipalities. They would rather use my taxes to fund their favorite charities and provide us with public(paid for by the government) art. I will shed a tear as I drive over our awful roads, am less safe with reduced police and fire and slide through intersections this winter because salt is too expensive. Boo-freaking-hoo.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 10:04 p.m.

Your county taxes do not fund roads or fire protection.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 5:58 p.m.

That hope and change that we were promised is really blowing us away. (Notice how I worked Obama and Granholm in the same thought)

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 12:22 p.m.

If the City of Ann Arbor hadn't built the $50 million &quot;Rog Mahal&quot; and pulled the courts out of the county courthouse, the county could have made fewer cuts. The county lost the annual rent from the city for the parts of the county court house it was using and that made the deficit hole larger. What was the point anyway as we later discovered that the &quot;overcrowding&quot; was caused by a judge the state's analysis says we didn't even need?!

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 1:37 p.m.

I want to remind everyone about our contest for us citizens who paid $750,000 for it, to name &quot;IT&quot; (the Dreiseitl water sculpture wasn't &quot;named&quot; by the sculptor&quot;). From your many suggestions, we are now up to 29 different name to choose from! Weigh in with your opinion and vote now by going to: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Please encourage all your friends to vote in the naming contest also! We will announce interim results when &quot;IT&quot; is finally working.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 11:53 a.m.

Kinda makes you regret we blew $750,000 to adorn City Hall with a German water fountain. Maybe we could have found something more important to spend the money on (like impoverished children).


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 10:58 p.m.

Sorry to disappoint you Ilene, but there are needy children in Ann Arbor too. This isn't just a problem of those &quot;other&quot; Washtenaw Co. people.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 3:02 p.m.

The County did not spend money art at City Hall. You are confusing the City of Ann Arbor budget with the Washtenaw County budget.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 11:47 a.m.

Cutting Head Start to zero is unconscionable. We will either take care of at risk children on the front side of life or we will take care of them in our prisons at much greater cost to society on the back side of life. Just ask Sheriff Clayton how many Head Start graduates are in his jails and how many non graduates are in his jails like I did at a recent A2Y Chamber meeting on early childhood education and you would never vote the way the commissioners did.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

@Jhonny: please see the replies to @KeepingItReal's comment below.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

I dont think 4 year olds not going to preschool will turn them into criminal. Not having a father in house probably will.

Basic Bob

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 11:19 a.m.

Talk like Democrats. Vote like Republicans. I know it's only a few thousand, but what about commissioners' travel accounts? Now that Kristin Junket is gone, they should be able to cut these by half or better.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 11:09 a.m.

And speaking of accountability, how much money is going to SPARK in the new budget that was approved? Has SPARK agreed yet to open its books?

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 11:07 a.m.

What hasn't Commissioner Smith paid back the money he owes the County and the taxpayers? Does he think voters have forgotten?


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 11:14 p.m.

They haven't forgotten. The Board of Commissioners would not dare to even ask let alone enforce repayment of the $8,500.00 that the four board members were have found to have received. Yet they have the gall to cut social programs for the needy.