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Posted on Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Washtenaw County proposed budget includes $1.2 million cut to outside agencies

By Ryan J. Stanton

Funding for various agencies would decrease by $1.2 million next year under a budget proposal submitted to the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners.

That includes a $455,538 cut in human services funding — down from $1.46 million — for programs that address issues like homelessness, domestic violence and child abuse.

Meanwhile, the county would cancel its membership in the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, a regional planning agency, saving another $125,000. The county also would eliminate funding for groups like LAWNET, the Neutral Zone and the Huron River Watershed Council, while payments to the Humane Society of Huron Valley would be cut in half.


Verna McDaniel

Those are but a few of the many cost-cutting proposals outlined in a balanced budget submitted to the county board Wednesday night by County Administrator Verna McDaniel.

The general fund budget for calendar years 2012 and 2013 includes a mix of new revenue generation and spending cuts that effectively eliminates a $17.5 million structural deficit.

New revenue generation is a $4.1 million piece of that puzzle, while concessions made by county employees account for $4 million.

Another $8.2 million in organizational changes and baseline reductions is outlined, including a $1.5 million drop in county infrastructure allocations and $4.6 million in departmental cuts. The consolidation of three county offices is saving $517,000 alone.

"It was a team approach to prepare this budget," McDaniel said, giving credit to county employees for stepping up to help out. "We have come up with 80 percent structural savings. That's phenomenal, and I don't take credit for that."

The county board is expected to continue discussing and shaping the budget over the coming months and some changes are likely. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Oct. 19. The board aims to adopt the budget on Nov. 16.

"When we first looked at the size of the deficit, we thought it might require over 97 position eliminations in 2012 and over 174 position eliminations in 2013," Tina Gavalier, the county's financial analyst, reminded commissioners Wednesday night.

"The recommended budget includes a net reduction of 22.9 FTE positions and places an additional 11 FTEs on hold vacant status. All of these positions are planned vacancies."

The budget shows general fund revenues and expenditures balanced at $97.7 million in 2012, dropping off to $96.9 million in 2013 as property tax revenues continue to decline.

The two-year budget includes a $1.55 million planned use of fund balance, dropping the county's general fund reserves to about $12.7 million by the end of 2013.

About 61 percent of general fund revenue comes from taxes. General fund tax revenues totaled $64.7 million in 2010 and were projected to come in at $62.7 million for 2011. But the county is expecting that to drop to $59.8 million in 2012, and then to $58.6 million in 2013.

With costs also rising, the county already is projecting a nearly $14.8 million structural deficit in 2015 when expenditures — if the status quo is maintained — will equal $103.7 million and revenues will have fallen off to $89 million.

"The county continues to operate with great uncertainty as the state of Michigan struggles with solutions to balance its own budget and make cost reductions," Gavalier said. "The most pressing concern comes in 2013 when our revenue sharing reserve fund is depleted."

Gavalier said the county's projections assume the state will not reinstate county revenue sharing, even though the state promised it would when the reserve fund originally was established several years ago. She said that accounts for a significant portion of the $8 million in annual revenue the county expects to lose starting in 2014.

"That's going to be a huge challenge," said Commissioner Leah Gunn, D-Ann Arbor. "The other challenge waiting in the wings is the possible elimination of the personal property tax."

A member of the county board for nearly 15 years, Gunn called this year's county budget process "the hardest budget I've ever worked on."

McDaniel said the budget she submitted Wednesday night follows the priorities and guidances she received from the county board to support programs that help residents feel safe and secure, as well as address the basic needs of children and families.

"We focused on maximizing collaboration opportunities, wherever we could find where we could consolidate and collaborate and save money," she said.

Several people came to Wednesday's meeting to voice opposition to the administration's recommendation that the county save $360,000 by withdrawing as the grantee for Washtenaw County Head Start, an early childhood program designed to help break the cycle of poverty by providing preschool children from low-income families with a comprehensive set of services to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional and educational needs.


Rolland Sizemore Jr.

Multiple commissioners, including Ronnie Peterson, D-Ypsilanti, and Rolland Sizemore Jr., D-Ypsilanti Township, voiced concerns about the elimination of support for Head Start and assured the audience they don't want to see the program go away.

"We're looking at different ways," Sizemore said. "I don't think Head Start's going away. There may be a different provider is the way I think it's going to happen."

Gavalier said $184,000 in savings was found in the county's MSU Extension office, including elimination of a program coordinator and a customer service specialist.

She said the sheriff's office is saving $1.4 million by increasing revenue opportunities and eliminating four full-time positions and placing eight others on hold vacant status.

Gavalier said about $183,000 in savings will come from administration, mostly from keeping the now-vacant deputy county administrator position vacant. She said a savings of about $31,000 in the county board's own operating budget is expected in 2013.

Changes in the clerk's office, including increased fees and a net reduction of 2.4 employees, are estimated to save $603,000, Gavalier said. Another $320,000 in savings are identified in the county's legal department, though no positions are being eliminated, she said.

Gavalier said the district court budget shows a lump sum reduction of $293,000, calling for elimination of a full-time deputy court clerk position and placement of two positions on hold vacant status. That includes a probation agent and an attorney/magistrate position.

Meanwhile, the trial court would see a lump-sum reduction of $300,000, Gavalier said. Position modifications there are yet to be determined.

County commissioners took turns Wednesday night offering praises to both the administrative staff and the county's frontline employees who have made concessions.

Commissioner Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, said seeing the budget balancing in large part because of what employees have given is heartwarming.

"It means, to me, everyone is able to come to the table and work together," he said. "And I think that it's very important to take an opportunity to say thank you, because people have given and they've given a lot, and they've helped to make this budget happen."

Commissioners also gave final approval Wednesday night to renewing two county taxes — an agriculture and economic development millage expected to raise $688,913 next year and a veterans relief millage expected to raise $344,486.

The veterans relief millage passed 10-0 with Commissioner Kristin Judge, D-Pittsfield Township, absent. The agriculture and economic development levy — more commonly known as an Act 88 millage — passed 7-3 with dissent from Commissioners Dan Smith, R-Northfield Township; Alicia Ping, R-Saline; and Wesley Prater, D-York Township.


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.


J Shaker

Fri, Sep 23, 2011 : 2:15 a.m.



Fri, Sep 23, 2011 : 1:39 a.m.

I would like to hear from one intelligent person on the benefits of illegal drug use/abuse. There are thousands of lives destroyed over drug and alochol abuse that to legalize marijuana it seems would only add greater harm to our society. What the so called "social elites" don't realize is that when little johnny or sarah see mommy or daddy getting blown out by smoking some kush they will do the same. i have heard of several instances including one where a high school kid got into his dad's stuff and passed it around to 6 other kids who never tried it before. Please tell me what good did that do. Keep police and fire fully funded.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 5:32 p.m.

Why are we cutting the Humane Society allocation? Of all the items listed here, the animals are the only ones who have not had a direct impact on the sad state of financial affairs in the county................ In addition, what exactly is BARRIER BUSTERS? and why do they need twice the support that they recieved last year?

Lets Get Real

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 5:09 p.m.

I love it - SPARK gets more money to run programs in which they use highly skilled professional consultants - who have seen a downturn in their own businesses and who want to market themselves to entrepreneurs starting businesses - to provide classes and consulting for free. They are in the back pocket of the state: Snyder, Finney, Cell and crew. How many jobs have been created with the money that's been spent on that innovative idea? And, where is the support from the private equity firms and the venture capitalists who benefit from the entrepreneurs whose businesses struggle and flounder through SPARKS programs to land on their doorsteps for funding which grabs every bit of return they can from the start-ups. Does this budget recognize there is no human in Humane Society? Hmmm. But of all the cuts in all of the departments: Legal, Sherrif, Administration, Clerk, Court - not one concession in the Treasurer's Office? Gotta count that money, gotta foreclose on those properties, got to crack down on delinquency, gotta hire more people to be punish to struggling citizens. One word folks, Elections!


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 3:20 p.m.

With all these cuts is Washtenaw County prepared to deal with 75 people going off the welfare roll in October? Going to be interesting to see how it is going to all pan out.

Julie D.

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 3:01 p.m.

It is interesting to note that even with a 50% cut, the Humane Society is receiving more funding than shelters for homelessness and domestic violence collectively.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 11:21 p.m.

What is even more interesting is this. The violence done to animals gives you more time in jail then what is done to child abuse. You get less time then animal abuse. Yes, I agree, those who cannot speak do deserve to protected. But still, interesting to see how this all pans out.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 5:38 p.m.

The animals at the Humane Society have no ability to improve their position by making better lifestyle, financial and/or relationship choices and therefore deserve more. I mean, they dont even have the opposable thumb........


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 2:42 p.m.

I hope the County plan to increase its level of accountability for those agencies it funds. It does not make any sense to fund the same agencies year in and year out with out having any way of determining whether these organizations are doing what they say they are doing.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 1:31 p.m.

I hope people are prepared to deal with all these cuts in service. I don't think they even understand what this will mean.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 2:45 p.m.

Keeping it real: You're right on. The only growth industry in Michigan recently has been the prison system.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 2:39 p.m.

Gramma. In many instances our penal system will be looked to as a means of addressing the problems that will result for some of these agencies who will receive cutbacks. As tax payers, we will still pay because in the state of Michigan its cost at least $20,000 a year to house a prison in the lowest security facility. That bill has to be paid by someone and guess who that will be.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 12:50 p.m.

I am worried about LAWNET getting reduced funding. I am all for getting rid of LAWNET altogether as they have absolutely NO RESPECT for the law the state of Michigan or the citizens that they supposedly serve but I am concerned that merely lowering their budget will prompt them to go all "Wild West" on us. They already rob dispensaries and drug dealers while wearing ski masks (something we used to bash the Soviets and other Commies for) and operate "Jump Out" squads on Macarthur Blvd. and this is while they still receive taxpayer funding! If we take all their money away and still leave them with guns and a reason to use them I am concerned we will see more rogue behavior. Either eliminate LAWNET completely or enforce a change of mission for them, i.e.: make them patrol officers, which we ahve a need for vs. ski-mask wearing paramilitary goons, which we have plenty of already!


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

Rob Dispensaries and Drug Dealers? interesting take on your interpretation of something you know absolutely nothing about. I apparently need some clarification also to what your perceived belief of the "Wild West" is because apparently it is slightly different than average minded individuals. lastly, How long must people whine about these dispensaries? Maybe it would be better served if you could amass more than 1500 people to support your cause at the capitol considering there is over 100,000 strong that posess marijuana cards, oh yes, i forgot, the folks are so sick and debilitated that they couldn't make it there. Make it legal instead of whining about others doing their job. Sorry Ryan, thats the democratic way......

Jimmy McNulty

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : noon

What is "Barrier Busters" under the "Other Agencies-GF Category" heading, and why does their budget increase by $50,000???

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 11:56 a.m.

Thank you for putting the itemized list into your report. It really improves the utility of the article. Good reporting!


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 11:55 a.m.

What exactly is "barrier busters" and why is their budget doubling? I looked this up on line, and there was a very fuzzy description of the activities. It sounded like we are spending an extra $100K a year to address red tape problems. Seems kind of pricey, when you could just have people do their jobs correctly for what they are being paid already.

Marilyn Wilkie

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 11:42 a.m.

Lest we forget: <a href=""></a> .


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 11:16 a.m.

Is the SPARK increase due to the salary of the new director? They're suppose to be innovative, how about generating their own additional support without tax dollars.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 11:05 a.m.

This will be a hard budget to pass. People are going to lobby hard for their &quot;Cause&quot;. The county has funded so many things over time that are not required by law. There was plenty of money to go around. Now there is not. In one way I am glad they saved jobs, but in another they did the same thing business does, slice the contractors and consultants before looking for efficiency inside. In this case it was the outside agencies that are the contractors. I wonder what the employee unions were promised for their concessions in wages? We will probably never know. I note the board passed a couple of tax extensions (increases?) again without consulting the voters. Some people will say &quot;they needed to do this to fund &quot;X&quot;&quot;. Maybe they did, but the fact that the board is again looking for ways to change the revenue without going to the voters (the building of the jail comes to mind), says that the board will do what they want, without consulting the voters. After all they are secure in their seats. No one will vote against the Washtenaw Democratic Party machine.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 10:24 a.m.

Surprise! The County SPARK contribution increases from $200K to $230K, to a group that doesn't allow outside audits while SAFEHOUSE's funding is sliced in half. Beautiful. Will Conan Smith please address THIS issue? I doubt it-still waiting for his payment back to the taxpayers of the $500 bucks he owes as documented by Any update/followup on that?


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 10:19 a.m.

Is it just a coincidence that the ONLY agency to receive an INCREASE is SPARK? Where can I find more information on each of these line items? As a long time resident I'm familiar with many but more detail would be helpful I bet I'm not the only one who'd like to know.

Monica R-W

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 9:32 p.m.

Be careful.....say anything about cutting useless SPARK, your comment might get removed from Ann cuts to SafeHouse, Headstart and Neutral Zone as just fine!