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Pontiac — Oakland County’s sound fiscal policies and competitive pay and benefits for Oakland County’s workforce were among topics highlighted by County Executive L. Brooks Patterson in his budget presentation Wednesday night.

County employees, including many of Patterson’s staff, were in attendance at the county Board of Commissioner’s Auditorium on Wednesday to hear Patterson deliver a proposed balanced budget for the next three years.

The 77-year-old Patterson, running for his seventh term as the county’s top elected post, again applauded officials for their efforts to support a triennial budget — more than $2.6 billion over the next three years. More than 1.2 million people live in the county.

“Oakland County has a strong leadership team, dedicated and professional county employees (and) long-term budget practices that are a model for others around the country,” said Patterson.

Patterson laid out how the county is in its sixth year of economic recovery with property values going up and foreclosures dipping to the lowest point since 2005.

Key elements of the county’s successes were also laid out by Laurie VanPelt, director of Management & Budget: a county unemployment rate of 3.5 percent in April, below the state’s 4.8 percent level and national average of 5 percent. Per capita personal income was $59,759 in 2014, highest of any county in Michigan and above the state and national average.

Patterson’s proposals involve a general fund of $443,244,156 for 2017; $454,141,372 for 2018 and $443,244,156 for 2019. Total budgets for the same years are $854,331,857; $859,121,765; and $860,561,195.

The plan provides for a surplus of funds of nearly $200 million that can be utilized over the next five years, according to county officials.

Some attendees, like Waterford Township Trustee Anthony Bartollotta, were impressed by Patterson’s summation of the county’s success.

“I wish Waterford would have a triennial budget like the county,” he said. “We go from year to year but the county way shows long-term planning. I admire that.”

Commissioner David Woodward, D-Royal Oak, said he would like to see some of the surplus spent on services for county residents.

“I would like to see the budget put a focus on a fund for an Oakland Kids Safe Drinking Water Initiative, to help end a waiting list for seniors needing services — which we are told to number about 500. And our roads need improving,” said Woodward, who is chair of the board’s Democratic caucus.

Woodward said he agrees with Patterson’s view that the county’s 911 system is in need of an upgrade.

Patterson wants the 911 copper network replaced with a regional system that will allow citizens to transmit texts, photographs and videos to law enforcement responding to emergency calls.

Improved security and increased staff in county buildings also is needed, said Patterson, who wants to commit another $1.9 million to upgrades already approved last year and about $3.3 million from the general fund in 2017.

Patterson has proposed a 2 percent pay increase in fiscal years 2017 and 2018 and possibly a 1 percent increase in 2019.

The county will match up to $500 annually to an employee deferred compensation plan. That plan, which began in January, previously had a $300 annual match for county workers.

The county also recently approved a six-week paid leave for mothers or fathers after a birth or adoption.

Patterson’s budget proposals will be considered in coming weeks during hearings by the board’s Finance Committee. The committee can reject, accept or part or modify the proposals. Following that process, they will eventually go before the full 25-member Board of Commissioners for a vote.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319

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