Oakland budget calls for pay raises, building upgrades
Pontiac – Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and aides delivered a three-year budget recommendation Thursday that includes modest raises for county employees, building and technology improvements and the possibility of a small property tax cut in two years.
It is ultimately the Oakland County Board of Commissioners’ duty to approve general budgets and Patterson’s recommendations, based on number crunching by deputy executives and county fiscal experts, that call for spending $465.5 million in 2019, $466.4 million in 2020 and $475.4 million in 2021.
Total budgets for the same years are $893.3 million, $893.6 million and $901.5 million.
“If I had to identify the primary factor responsible for our financial management successes, it would be our committed adherence to long-range planning and budgeting practices,” Patterson said when introducing a power-point presentation to the 21-member board.
“It is forward planning coupled with action that separates Oakland County from other governments around the country, which is why we are recognized by Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s as the very best at maintaining fiscal stability,” Patterson said.
Deputy County Executive Robert Daddow said that for the county to remain attractive to workers and competitive with private industry, county employees should be given salary increases of 2 percent in 2019 and 1 percent in both 2020 and 2021.
The nation’s “Great Recession” put the brakes on expenditures for government campus infrastructure improvements – including renovations, technology and security upgrades – which will require substantial investment, Patterson said.
Another financial hitch, Patterson said, is a mandate from the state legislature to establish and staff a public defender office for indigent offenders. Patterson predicted construction and start-up costs for such a facility could top $30 million, plus $20 million annually to operate.
Property taxes for county operations could be lowered from its current 4.04 mills to 4 mills in 2020 when a projected Headlee rollback will occur, he said.
The board is expected to vote on the recommendations by September. Commissioners, both Republican and Democrat, seemed to like what they heard from Patterson and his team during a 90-minute presentation.
"The budget is so well-balanced and the county' finances are strong," said Commissioner William Dwyer, R-District 14, which includes the city of Farmington, Southfield Township, Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms and Franklin villages, as well as part of Farmington Hills.
"There is nothing to object to -- I expect it (budget recommendation) will pass unanimously."
David Woodward, D-District 19, which represents Berkley and a portion of Royal Oak, agreed: "Oakland County is in great financial shape."
"The priority of this budget debate this year will be how that prosperity is used to help all working families and seniors get ahead -- and not just a few," Woodward said.