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Posted on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 11:51 a.m.

200-plus jobs on the line as Washtenaw County officials tackle $20.9 million structural deficit

By Ronald Ahrens

Washtenaw County is projecting a $20.9 million structural deficit over the next two years — the equivalent of about 207 full-time positions, commissioners learned Wednesday night.

County Administrator Verna McDaniel told the board that continued declines in revenue contribute to the projections.

“We know we have a deep and structural deficit, which we must start to repair,” McDaniel said. “I do feel that these are very solid projections.”

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County Administrator Verna McDaniel

She said a realistic forecast includes the uncertainty surrounding Michigan’s budget crisis and the continued declines in the real estate market.

Staying conservative to maintain the county’s surplus fund and good bond rating is essential, McDaniel said. Maintaining “world-class service” is also a priority, she said.

Later this month, meetings will begin to set priorities. The details of the budget are expected to be hammered out within the next several months, and the board will adopt a final version in the fall.

Public safety and judicial services account for 62 percent of the county’s general fund budget of $98.7 million. The total county budget is in excess of $200 million.

Board Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, said the necessary restructuring “probably means elimination of departments.” But Smith said it doesn’t necessarily correspond that the biggest cuts can be made in the biggest portion of the pie.

“Public safety is essential to our economic prosperity,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any easy place to pull funds from.”

Smith called public safety funding a "hot button issue" and said eliminating the county's subsidy for contract deputies provided to the townships and villages might not be the best course of action.

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“If we did that, the consequence is that public safety in those communities is significantly reduced," he said. "What happens then? What is the impact on jobs? What is the impact on people choosing that community as a place to live, which has a systemic impact on tax collection?”

He said the board needs “to be very cognizant of the secondary and tertiary impacts of a budget decision, so that we don’t end up shooting ourselves in the foot.”

According to Wednesday's presentation, the projected deficit for calendar year 2012 is $12.95 million — or 14 percent of general fund revenue. That's equal to 132 full-time jobs.

By 2013, without cuts, the county would be running a $20.9 million deficit, according to the report. That's nearly a quarter of general fund revenue at that point, or 207 full-time jobs.

The board voted 8-0 on Wednesday to move the juvenile court from the 45-year-old building at 2270 Platt Road to the downtown Washtenaw County Courthouse.

The relocation is part of the Trial Court Justice Integration Project’s effort to meet budget cuts totaling $1.1 million, said Judge Donald Shelton, who addressed the board.

The process will start in late April. “We’re committed to doing our part,” Shelton said.'s Ryan J. Stanton contributed to this report. Ronald Ahrens is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Sun, Jan 23, 2011 : 1:04 a.m.

I would like to know if there is anyway to find out what is spent on with the tax money from residents the city of Ann Arbor collects? Look at all the townships ( the uplands pay about $10,000 per house ) We need some accountibility. Where is it all going its not going on Stadium blvd bridge thats for sure. Another thing each person could clean there own office if they would instead of having a cleaning service do it. There is alot of things that could be cut but they really are not willing to cut them.


Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 5:25 p.m.

Budget reform should start at the top. Some elected department heads are working by the principle that non involvement with daily function means they are doing a good job. Other departments perceive that they serve outside the rules and function as independents. Who is responsible for oversight ? - How many hours a week of productivity are we the tax payers getting? The results of meetings creating more meetings is not an efficient way solving the issues of government.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 10:32 p.m.

The appointment of Donald Shelton as chief judge was one of the best things to happen to the circuit court in recent years. His professionalism and calm demeanor is a sharp contrast to Engler appointees Timothy Connors and Archie Brown, whose tenures as chief judge were both turbulent and chafed with the values and mores of Ann Arbor citizenry.

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 1:54 a.m.

It is impossible to maintain "world class" anything when labor costs in the rest of the world don't include benefits befitting a president and his court. It is time for cities and states throughout the country to address the issue of public employee pensions and benefits. Before all we have left is a bunch of employees and a third-world infrastructure.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 12:35 a.m.

Stunshif, your opinion that "When the economy contracts so must government spending" gets it all wrong - the opposite is true in my humble opinion. When the economy contracts, as it did in this recession, there is excess capacity. And this capacity must be put to use, or we'll lose it for good, and that will weaken the economy for a much longer period, as it's not easy to re-build when demand picks up. And the way to do this is through temporarily (!) increased govenment spending, preferably on infrastructure and education as investments in the future. Whether this should be financed through temporarily (!) increased borrowing, or monetarily through quantitative easing and similar measures can be debated, but I do believe the principle that we should aim for high resource and capacity utilization to maximize our collective wealth is sound.


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 9:49 p.m.

Just implement an income tax like the all Democrat city council in Ann Arbor proposed recently. There, problem solved - just get more money. See how easy that was?


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 7:36 p.m.

I am offended by people who put down unions. We wouldn't have the pay and job equality if it was not for the unions. As a Ford employee wife I have always had to cut back during the strike year. It is about time the County and state make cuts. We just have to learn to help our fellow man and look out for one another.


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 7:36 p.m.

When private sector employees were making money hand over fist and making thousands in bonuses (I know, I was one of them), where was all the yelling and screaming about making public sector wages fall in line with private? Funny how you don't care about public sector employees until you've had some bad luck some your way. Holds a lot more water if those of you would've complained the other way when companies had money falling from the ceilings. But you just cashed your checks while public sector employees kept having 'wage freezes'.

Pat Ivey

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.

County Administrator Verna McDaniel has set the appropriate tone for what must happen to maintain fiscal responsibility. I share Board Chairman Smith's reservations about pursuing cuts involving public safety. Nobody likes to see people lose their jobs, but restructuring and consolidation means positions will have to be eliminated. We have a very capable group of commissioners. I'm confident that elected and appointed officials will look at county services from a fresh perspective and meet the challenge of this projected revenue shortfall.


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 5:36 p.m.

Need to have more specific information regarding the nature of the shortfalls. What are the specific revenue sources that are declining and by how much? This cannot all be related to the decline in property values. The assessors are not out there dramatically reducing assessments on a daily basis. All we hear about are generalities. I think a careful analysis of where the declines are coming from is a place to start and more information in an article like this would be helpful. When did this start? Why has it not been addressed before this point?


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 5:21 p.m.

When the economy contracts so must government spending. This deficit could be easily solved if the unions would care about those that employ them . Bring all the unions healthcare and benefits in line with the private sector. Leave their pay alone, their salary or hourly pay is reasonable for the most part. It is the benefits and pensions that are killing the budgets statewide.