Wayne County opts for consent agreement

State of Michigan's declaration of financial emergency prompts action

The Wayne County Commission voted 12-2 with one abstention Aug. 6 to choose a consent agreement as the option to address the county's state of financial emergency, as declared by the State of Michigan. The consent agreement was one of four options to come before the Commission. The others were neutral evaluation, an emergency manager and Chapter 9 bankruptcy.
Jewel Ware, vice-chair pro tempore of the Commission, voted no. Instead, she wasin favor of the neutral evaluation option. In the neutral evaluation, interested parties would have met with a mutually agreed-upon mediator who would have facilitated discussions and negotiations to resolve the financial emergency. If they did not reach agreement within the time allotted then Chapter 9 bankruptcy would have been recommended. However if an agreement was made, but the State Treasurer determined that funds were not sufficient to end the financial emergency, the county would proceed under one of the remaining three options.

This process started because Wayne County Executive Warren Evans sent a letter on June 17 to State Treasurer Nick Khouri requesting a financial emergency declaration in Wayne County. Khouri issued interim and final reports, and a state-appointed financial review team interviewed Wayne County stakeholders - including commissioners - and held a public hearing in the Commission's chambers, which Commissioner Ware attended. The team sent a report to Gov. Snyder on July 21 determining that a financial emergency exists in Wayne County.
Under Michigan Public Act 436 of 2012, the vote began a 30-day clock for the Commission to approve the consent agreement between the county and state that describes how the county will resolve its financial emergency. If the consent agreement had not been approved in that time, Khouri would have chosen another of the options.
Under the consent agreement, the Commission and county executive retain their powers, and the executive can impose conditions on union contracts.

Commission approves balanced budget

The Wayne County Commission on Sept. 17 approved a $1.56 billion balanced budget for Wayne County for the 2015-16 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. The 2014-15 adopted budget was $1.68 billion, meaning that the 2015-16 budget was reduced by about $120 million, or more than 7 percent.

The budget was adopted under the parameters of Wayne County's consent agreement with the state of Michigan, which went into effect Aug. 21. The agreement, approved by the Commission on Aug. 13, came on the heels of the state treasury declaring a state of financial emergency in Wayne County.
The budget - which the administration said will eliminate structural and accumulated deficits that were $52 million and $88 million, respectively, at the start of this calendar year, but have since been reduced, and aims to shore up a pension system that's 47 percent funded - factors in several money-saving measures, including a reorganization plan that was unanimously approved by the Commission. The biggest part of the plan was the creation of the Department of Health, Veterans and Community Wellness, which merges services that were offered by several other departments and divisions under one umbrella, with the goals of improved customer service and reduced costs. The budget also reflects some employee pay, benefits and pension reductions starting Nov. 1. And, it reflects the elimination of retirees' health care. They'll receive a stipend instead. Almost every department saw its budget reduced.

A major reason for the county's financial distress is a significant drop in property tax values since the 2007-08 fiscal year. That year, the county collected $389 million in property taxes. In 2015-16, the number is projected to be $266 million, or a reduction of nearly 32 percent.

My Vet Connect assists veterans

Commission Vice-Chair Pro Tempore Jewel Ware, a member of the Special Committee on Senior Citizens and Veterans Affairs, and William Sumner (left), My Vet Connect president and chairman/CEO of Detroit-based Health Management Systems of America (HMSA), accept a $10,000 check from Robert Miller, Real Estate Donations USA president. The money went to My Vet Connect, which offers services to veterans. My Vet Connect is a privately funded, nonprofit partnership among HMSA, the Wayne County Veterans Services Division and the division's Veterans Community Action Team, and aims to connect veterans and their dependents to vital services like job placement, counseling and financial assistance.

Call the Veterans Services Division at 313-224- 5045 for more information.