Saturday Shorts: Good time to ditch Aramark

The Detroit News

The state is switching its prison food service contract from the controversial Aramark Correctional Services to the Trinity Services Group.

During Aramark’s tenure, there were numerous complaints, ranging from maggots found in kitchen areas to rodent-nibbled cake and incidents of workers engaging in sex acts with prisoners.

However, officially, according to Chris Gautz, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections, the switch is being made because the state and Aramark couldn’t agree on contract changes the Philadelphia-based firm sought.

Gautz says Trinity will be paid more than Aramark but the contract is well over the mandatory 5 percent budget savings required by the legislature. Aramark’s contract was for $52.5 million a year while Trinity’s is for $52.9 million. The annual expense when state workers were used was $65.7 million. So the savings is roughly 20 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

Despite the problems encountered with Aramark, privatization was not a bad idea. Hopefully, under the new company, the food service operation will be much smoother and continue to save the state money.

Oakland’s budgeting a success

Oakland County employees and residents continue to reap benefits from the county’s three-year budgeting system.

County Executive L. Brooks Patterson is proposing a .05 mills property tax cut as well as wage increases in his 2016-18 budgets. If approved, the cut would drop the current millage to 4.04 mills. Also, Patterson seeks raises of 3 percent for fiscal 2016; 2 percent for 2017; and 1 percent in 2018.

Under the three-year system, officials have time to plan and properly execute needed line item budget changes.

Oakland County is believed to be the first in the nation to budget three years ahead and has even gained national recognition. The county’s system is the subject of the July newsletter of the Government Finance Officers Association, which represents public finance officials throughout the United States and Canada.

The county has shared its budgeting prowess and many communities have benefited. More local and county governments should do the same.

Court restructuring prudent move

The State Court Administrative Office’s biennial court restructuring report suggests one judgeship be dropped in Detroit’s 36th District Court and one in Oakland County’s 52nd District Court.

They would be among nine judgeships statewide that would be cut if the plan is ultimately approved by the Legislature.

While the loss of a judgeship might stir concerns, historically eliminating seats from the bench has proven cost effective.

The report is issued every two years and takes a close look at the need for judges throughout the state. On balance, this year’s report is urging the addition of judges in the 44th District Court in Royal Oak, 6th Circuit in Pontiac and 16th Circuit in Mount Clemens. The expected savings from these changes is $7.4 million.

The process is lengthy and no judge’s position will be immediately eliminated. Usually, the reductions come through combining judicial districts and attrition when judges retire.

Keeping the judicial system fiscally healthy is only reasonable because it saves taxpayers money. The Legislature should approve these changes.