Washtenaw County human services community asks commissioners to avoid funding cut
As budget discussions continue, members of the human services community told the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners this week that needy county residents require help more than ever.
The county is participating in a new coordinated funding process with the Ann Arbor City Council, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, United Way and Washtenaw Urban County Executive Committee .
The county has been asked to allocate $1 million from the general fund to the consolidated human services effort. The county budgeted an overall total of $1.3 million for human services last year, and about $1.015 million went to the coordinated funding process, according to county officials.
Maintaining county funding is important to maintaining services, the human services officials said.
Susan Beckett, publisher and managing director of Groundcover newspaper, said the services for needy citizens in Washtenaw County have insulated the area somewhat from increased crime because the level of desperation in some areas is not seen here.
“I don’t want to see us go back to that kind of desperation where people are doing whatever they can to make ends meet,” she said.
It was a similar turn out to the one seen at an Ann Arbor City Council meeting earlier this month.
Other members of the human services community attempted to appeal to the county’s pocketbook by saying the money invested in human services would present a positive return.
Barbara Niess May, executive director of the SafeHouse Center, said the county has been a consistent supporter of the center with funding over the years. The reduction in funding that’s feared for the coming year could mean less money comes into the county because funds might not be leveraged from outside of the county.
“This funding is critical because it leverages funds from outside of our area back in,” she said. “It’s not just out of the county, or out of Lansing but federal dollars as well.”
Commissioners thanked the human services community for their work, but said they have a struggle to balance the county’s budget and cuts may have to be made.
Commissioner Barbara Bergman, D-Ann Arbor, said all the commission could do is work through the budget problems. She said she appreciated the work done by the human services community because it helped bring more taxpayers into the county when lives get turned around.
“Turn ‘em into paxpayers and then we can solve all the problems in this county,” Bergman said with a laugh.
During the meeting, the commission began the discussion on how to move forward on the human services funding, eventually putting it on the agenda for the June 1 meeting.
Commissioners discussed at length whether or not they could approve funds for human services for the fiscal years 2012 and 2013 without knowing what the revenues for those years would be. Commissioner Ronnie Peterson, D-Ypsilanti, took issue with a portion of the resolution which said the commissioners would “simply approve” the funding for human services.
“We don’t simply approve anything,” he said, “especially not when it’s $1 million.”