Commissioners decline to use surplus money

By: Robert Guttersohn | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published December 28, 2012

MOUNT CLEMENS — On the same night the Board of Commissioners approved the 2013 budget at its Dec. 20 meeting, its members also blocked the appropriation of a $12 million surplus from the 2012 budget.

The county’s Finance Department requested that the board appropriate the surplus to bolster the capital-improvement fund. Peter Provenzano, the director of the Finance Department, said the $12 million would have funded the capital-improvement fund for the next four years. But those who voted against the appropriation said there was no reason to rush to a decision on where the extra money will go.

Because the measure was not properly introduced prior to the board adopting the agenda, it required a two-thirds majority vote to suspend the rules and bring it before the commissioners for a vote. Five of the 12 commissioners present voted against doing so.

Provenzano said, because the board failed to pull the $12 million surplus from the 2012 budget, it will roll over into the 2013 general fund. If the board decides  to appropriate the money in 2013, it will look like a deficit on the budget and could impact the county’s credit rating.

“If you do it next year, then you are creating a deficit in the fund,” he said.

Provenzano said credit agencies like to see governments plan long-term.

“They want to see confidence in our abilities to finance the financial services of our county,” he said. “And that’s what this would have done, but they did not approve it.”

Provenzano said there are still future budgetary pressures, for which the county must be prepared.

Commissioner Fred Miller, a Democrat representing the 9th District, voted against the measure, saying there is no reason for the board to rush and appropriate the surplus.

“In crafting this budget a year ago, there was this $60 million shortfall,” he said after the meeting. “We had to cobble together all these different sources and whatnot. And now, all of a sudden, we just found $12 million in a desk drawer somewhere.”

He said placing the surplus in the capital-improvement fund is only one of many plausible ideas.

“Putting it in the capital-improvement fund is one of the responsible options. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Miller said. “However, there are other options.”

Joe Sabatini, a Republican representing the 13th district, voted in favor of placing the measure on the agenda. He said future funding of capital-improvement projects is essential because it was neglected during the county’s financially healthy years. Now the county is operating in aging buildings because of it, he said.

“The building we are standing in is one of the newest buildings that we have,” Sabatini said, referring to the Macomb County Administration Building. “And it’s over 10 years old already.”