Exec submits Wayne Co. balanced budget for next 2 years

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said Wednesday he has submitted to the county commission for its approval a balanced budget of $1.5 billion for each of the next two years.

The spending plan is down from the county’s 2015-2016 budget of $1.68 billion.

Evans attributed the county budget reduction to $53 million in savings from his administration’s financial recovery plan and continued reductions in pension and health care costs.

“We are again presenting a responsible and balanced budget that continues to navigate the county to financial stability,” Evans said in a statement. “The fiscal discipline we put in place early in my administration is beginning to translate into progress for the county, allowing us to make important investments, to become more efficient and to better serve the residents and businesses in Wayne County.”

Among the highlights of his proposed budget for 2016-2017 and 2017-2018:

■A county budget surplus of $10.5 million in the first year and $3.5 million the second year. It follows a $35.7 million surplus in 2015-2016, a first for the county in eight years.

■The county prosecutor’s office is in line for $1 million to expand efforts to eliminate the backlog on rape kit testing. As part of that, the office will get an additional $150,000 to evaluate the prosecution of juveniles sentenced to life without parole and additional staffing in its Warrant Division. Furthermore, the county sheriff’s office will receive $600,000 to replace aging and outdated vehicles.

■An additional $10.5 million in debt service funding is earmarked for completion of the stalled jail project.

■The county clerk’s office will get $775,000 to upgrade vital records tracking software.

■An allocation of $137 million for the Department of Public Services’ Roads Division, $101 million of which is intended for maintenance and repairs while the rest would be used for capital improvements. Additionally, the budget sets aside $14.7 million for the county’s parks system as well as $1.2 million for parks and recreational programs run by cities and townships.

When Evans took office in January 2015, Wayne County faced a $70 million annual deficit stemming from an underfunded pension system and a $100 million drop in property tax revenues since 2008.

In April, he announced a recovery plan that called for reducing health care benefits for employees, eliminating health care for future retirees and restructuring the pension system to cut $230 million from the budget over four years.

Three months later, state officials declared a financial emergency in the county. To address the problem, Wayne County and the state entered into a consent agreement, which gave Evans some powers usually wielded only by emergency managers.

The county’s 2016-17 fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30.

The 15-member county commission will hold public hearings on the two-year budget and has until Aug. 31 to adopt the spending plan.

“We have accomplished a lot with this and last year’s budget,” Evans said. “But it is important that we maintain our focus because there is much more room for us to grow.”

cramirez@detroitnews.com

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