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Detroit — Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said Monday he’s put a freeze on spending in an effort to address a mounting financial crisis.

“Clearly, if you’re having cash flow problems, you’ve got to cut down on your expenditures,” Evans said during a news briefing at his office Monday afternoon. “This is just the first step and there will be so many more after this. This is just the beginning.”

The spending and hiring freeze comes about a month after Evans said Michigan’s largest county faces a “financial Armageddon” in the second half of next year unless spending cuts are made. He said a deficit of nearly $70 million, including a $50 million structural deficit, plus $20 million in extra pension payments from the general fund, looms over the county.

“(The order) isn’t going to get us out of our deficit,” Evans said. “It lets everyone understand the seriousness of it and puts some restrictions in place so at least we’re not elevating spending and reducing it some.”

Evans said the order went into effect immediately and affects only departments under the county’s executive branch of government. The county commission and the county courts are not impacted, he said.

County commission chairman Gary Woronchak said Monday neither he nor the commission had anything to say about the order.

Evans said it’s not clear yet how much the order will save the county, but he estimated it to be hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

“We don’t really know at this point what the savings will be because it’s a moving target,” he said. “But we know it’s going to save us money, and that’s a starting place.”

Evans’ order calls for several things:

All vacant county positions will stay vacant, with exemptions related to public health and safety, Evans said.

No county employees will receive raises unless they’re required by a collective labor agreement.

Employees working on a contractual basis will not be renewed or replaced unless it’s deemed essential.

In addition, Evans said, overtime, travel, operating services, supplies, professional services, acquisitions, major repairs, cellular phones, subscriptions, memberships, equipment and capital purchases will be restricted.

He said funds for declared emergencies, expenditures for housing juvenile offenders in detention facilities, and budgeted sheriff’s deputies and assistant prosecutors are also exempt from the spending freeze.

Federal- and state-funded expenses, as well as those mandated by the county charter, state or federal law, court orders and cooperative agreements, will not be affected either, he said.

Evans’ order creates an “Executive Review Committee” to ensure its terms are followed, implement additional restrictions to cut spending and determine the renewal or replacement of contracted workers.

Members of the committee include Evans’ chief of staff, the chief restructuring officer, budget director, corporation counsel and director of personnel/human resources.

“I along with the Executive Review Committee, other county elected officials and the rest of my staff will continue to look for ways to streamline county expenditures while still providing the necessary services to county residents,” Evans said.

cramirez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2058

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