Wayne County projects surplus for 2017-18 budget

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans is projecting a $4.2 million surplus in county coffers for 2017-18, marking the third straight year of a balanced budget.

Evans’ administration announced Monday that Evans was proposing a $1.45 billion budget that would allow the county to focus on public safety needs such as sheriff’s vehicles and “position itself to finance the stalled jail project.”

The county’s budget in the 2016-17 fiscal year was $1.49 billion.

“We are again able to present a balanced budget that pays for critical public services while living within our means,” Evans said in a statement. “The recovery plan has successfully brought stability to the budget process. As a result, we are able to deliver real value to our residents for their tax dollars while tackling remaining challenges such as the jail.”

Evans is currently reviewing proposals from billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert and Chicago-based Walsh Construction to finish the stalled Greektown jail project and expects to make a decision by the end of the month.

Gilbert’s plan seeks to build a criminal justice complex for the county elsewhere on city property near Interstate 75 with a 2,280-bed jail that will cost at least $520 million. The county would be responsible for $380 million of the project plus the cost of acquiring the land from the city.

Walsh Construction pitched a plan to complete the existing Greektown jail site with two options: one has 1,608 beds at $269 million and the other calls for 2,200 beds at $317.6 million.

Meanwhile, Evans’ proposed budget accounts for $600,000 to replace sheriff’s vehicles and $1 million for Prosecutor Kim Worthy’s investigation of a backlog of rape kit cases.

Evans proposed another $600,000 for a new integrated imagine system for the county clerk and $80,000 to help fund the Prosecutor’s Fair Michigan Justice Program for LGBT crime victims.

The budget also includes funding for 19 new full-time positions and one new part-time job in the prosecutor’s office. The increased staffing will help the county develop a Public Integrity Unit to investigate accusations of police misconduct and a Conviction Integrity Unit to review old cases where there could be a wrongful conviction.

“Every resident is entitled to justice and know law enforcement is there to protect them,” Evans said.

Evans’ proposed budget has been submitted to the Wayne County Commission for review.

“The Wayne County Commission’s Fiscal Agency is currently performing its due diligence in reviewing the county’s budget for FY 2017-18, which was released by CEO Warren Evans’ office last week,” commission spokesman Jim Toth said in an email. “The Commission’s Committee on Ways and Means will begin budget hearings Thursday, Aug. 1 with county departments in an effort to again achieve a fair and balanced budget.”

Under Evans leadership, Wayne County has been able to exit a previous consent agreement with the state and upgrade its credit rating.

Moody’s has raised its rating of the county’s general obligation limited tax bonds from Ba2 to Ba1 — Moody’s highest speculative grade rating for long-term obligations. The company has upgraded the bonds three times in less than two years, according to Evans.

Wayne County recorded a surplus of about $35 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year, Evans’ first year in office, and $46 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year.


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Twitter: @NicquelTerry