Patterson seeks pay hike for workers in 3-year budget

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — The Oakland County Board of Commissioners received a three-year budget proposal Thursday that calls for 1% salary increases next year for county workers.

The spending blueprint from county Executive L. Brooks Patterson also included a new salary administration plan and an alert on the need for new buildings for public safety and the Water Resources Commission.

It was the 27th balanced budget presented to the commissioners under Patterson, 80, who has indicated he does not plan to run for re-election when his current term expires at the end of December 2020.

Oakland County Board of Commissioners Chairman David T. Woodward, left, greets Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson as she arrives to give a  presentation.

The Republican county executive, who is undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, did not personally present the budget, which was delivered by some of his top appointees. In a written copy, signed by him, Patterson touted the county's fiscal merits and stewardship by the commissioners that has enabled the county to maintain a AAA bond rating, the highest Wall Street recognizes..

"Oakland County is one of the very few governments in America to operate on a triennial budget," Patterson wrote. "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."

Part of that practice is a "rolling" budget, which is amended to roll forward to subsequent years. In this case, Patterson's general fund/general purpose spending plan estimates revenue and appropriations balanced at $476.9 million for fiscal 2020, $486.4 million for 2021 and $492.5 million for 2022.

Total budgets for those same years, including other funding sources, are $924.1 million in 2020, $932.5 million in 2021 and $939.2 million in 2022. 

Commissioners were expected to spend some time digesting the numbers before approving or rejecting the recommendations.

That might take time, especially with the Democrats holding a majority on the board — 11-10 — for the first time in decades. Board Chairman David Woodward, D-Royal Oak, described Thursday as the beginning of a process to "best serve the people of Oakland County."

"We will develop and adopt a budget that invests in people and our communities, help working families get ahead, and increases opportunity for everyone," Woodward said. "... we will be looking to do more to fix roads, protect our water and improve health care in Oakland County."

"This is the most important job we do every year and we are determined that the final product will be a fiscally responsible plan that reflects our shared values."

Committee hearings to dissect the budget are to begin July 24. A new budget must be in place by Sept. 30, according to deputy county executive Gerald Poisson, among four county appointees who delivered portions of the recommended budget Thursday.

Poisson was among several Patterson aides wearing purple T-shirts proclaiming "Family Doesn't Fight Alone #Team Brooks" in white letters. Sales of the shirts, a tribute to Patterson, have raised funds for a children's charity he founded, Rainbow Connection.

L. Brooks Patterson

In December 2017, Oakland County conducted a compensation study  to review market competitiveness of non-union jobs. The county set its current salary administration plan 33 years ago. The preliminary cost to implement a new salary plan is estimated at $6.1 million, according to Patterson. The county has 3,558 full-time workers and 1,339 part-time employees

"As one of the largest employers within the county's geographic boundary it is critical for Oakland County to stay competitive in this tight labor market..." he said in a news release.

Recommendations for future needs of the county include a new building to expand and improve the Oakland County Emergency Operations Center and sheriff's office 911 dispatch call center.

Current emergency operations are in cramped quarters shared with the homeland security division. A new facility could cost $60 million but no funding source has been identified. Dispatch operations, with more than a half-million calls annually, are outgrowing the current space as local communities contract services.

The Water Resources Commission's space needs have expanded with increased work, including acquiring Pontiac's water and sewer systems and wastewater treatment plant, Patterson said. Preliminary costs of a new facility is estimated at $17.7 million, costs which could be charged back to ratepayers.

(248) 338-0319