County approves 2017 budget

By: Thomas Franz | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published December 7, 2016

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MACOMB COUNTY — After three months of discussions and fine-tuning, the Macomb County Board of Commissioners approved the 2017 fiscal year budget for the county Dec. 1.

The total budget amounts to $233,394,750 in the general fund and $725,026,067 total.

The budget review process began in early September, and the board participated in nearly 30 hours of public meetings to identify just seven changes from the originally proposed budget. Those changes reduced the budget by nearly $8.7 million.

“This is a strong, sound, responsible budget,” said Board Chairman Dave Flynn, D-Sterling Heights. “We’re in a stronger financial position now, and if you look at where we are, we’re one of the strongest bonded counties in the state and in this country.”

Two new circuit court judges and $47 million in road project investments highlight new expenditures in this year’s budget.

Each judge also requires the hiring of a judicial secretary, judicial court clerk, assistant prosecuting attorney and a deputy sheriff. The total cost of all positions associated with the two new judgeships is $698,417 — $91,448 of which is funded by the state.

The budget for the Macomb County Department of Roads for 2017 is $119,423,254, which is an increase of $24,931,732 from 2016. It also accounts for an addition of about 88 full-time employees to the county workforce, which includes 58 employees for the Martha T. Berry medical facility.

Macomb County employees will also receive a 1 percent raise for the second consecutive year after not seeing a pay increase for nine years.

“We’re proud of that, that we have our fiscal house in order,” Macomb County Deputy Executive Mark Deldin said.

The main change in the final budget from what was originally proposed is a reduction of $8.85 million in a general fund contribution to the capital improvement fund. The budget shows an allocation of $17.15 million to reflect anticipated expenditures, primarily for work focused on the county’s central campus in Mount Clemens.

“This board had a strong desire to make sure that we budgeted for what was realistically possible in 2017 and, for the most part, put that back into the reserve funds so that we could have a fund balance that was over 20 percent,” Flynn said on the decision to reduce capital plan expenditures.

In new expenses from the original budget, the board approved $93,740 to hire a legislative analyst for the Board of Commissioners. It also added $4,800 to compensate the board’s chief of staff for use of a personal car to attend local and regional meetings.

The board also added $334,285 for a human resources compensation study.

“I think if we look back at what we’ve done on the last three budgets, we’ve invested in some of the most serious things we’ve ever done here at the county,” Flynn said.

Deldin said that the relatively quiet budget season could be attributed to the improved relationship between the board and executive’s office in recent years.

“The working relationship between the two branches of government that being the legislative and the executive has improved greatly in recent years, and we’re proud of the fact that this budget got passed with cooperation of both branches,” Deldin said. “It went very smoothly this year, with the board and executive’s office working hand-in-hand to have them approve a solid and balanced budget for 2017.”

The board voted 10-2 to approve the budget, with Commissioners Steve Marino, R-Harrison Township, and Joe Sabatini, R-Macomb Township, voting against it.

Marino pointed to wage increases for elected officials that were approved this past April, and are now being reflected in the county budget, as his reasoning for voting against it.

By a 9-4 vote April 14, the board approved raises for county commissioners and the board chair, as well as the county sheriff, clerk, prosecutor and executive.

“I simply could not support a lame-duck budget with double digit pay increases, car allowances, and six-figure salaries for elected officials while employees received their first wage increase in a decade,” Marino said. “This is a public service. We are supposed to serve, not be served.”

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