Wayne County hires private accounting firm to build 2022 budget

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — Wayne County will contract with the Rehmann Group, a Troy-based financial services firm, to prepare the county's 2022 budget.

The $350,000, six-month contract approved by the Wayne County Commission last week means a private firm will oversee the development of the $1.5 billion budget of Michigan's most populous county. 

The position of budget director has been vacant since January 2020, when then-director Kevin Haney retired. 

Haney returned to get the county through the 2020-21 budget cycle after the pandemic began but has officially retired now.

Last month:Wayne County seeks outside help to shore up budget office

The county has "had some swings and misses" on prospective budget directors, leaving the position unfilled going into budget season, Chief Financial Officer Hughey Newsome told a commission committee in March.

"I do not want to put the commission in a situation where we're at risk to not getting the budget passed," Newsome told the Ways and Means Committee.

Detroit's historic Guardian Building, home of Wayne County's administrative offices.

Enter Rehmann.

The company, in a statement, said that in addition to preparing the 2022 budget, its work will entail "evaluating and recommending improvements to current processes and procedures, and communicating to (Newsome) any other observations and recommendations to help establish an efficient, effective and stable budget function."

Commissioner Chairwoman Alisha Bell, D-Detroit, has said she had no problem with the contract but hoped it would be a one-time thing.

"It's a special skill set, especially for a county of our size," Bell said, noting the difficulty of finding such a person.

The contract's value cannot exceed $600,000, and Wayne County will pay for Rehmann's expertise at rates ranging from $125 per hour for staffers to $375 per hour for principals.

Those rates would normally be $190 an hour for staff and $490 an hour for principals, but Wayne County gets a discount through MiDeal.

MiDeal is a program of the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget that "allows Michigan cities, townships, villages, counties, school districts, universities, colleges and nonprofit hospitals to buy goods and services from state contracts" at a discounted rate, according to the state's website.

In the 15-page contract, obtained by The Detroit News through a Freedom of Information Act request, Wayne County agrees not to hire Rehmann staff. If it hires any Rehmann employee "in any capacity" during the contract or within two years of its end, it will pay a "placement fee."

The fee, which is "one year's total compensation," applies even if the Rehmann staffer is hired from a "general solicitation" rather than being recruited.