The Macomb Daily

Commission­ers endorse employee pay raises in $1.1 billion budget

Board chairman praises bipartisan support for county’s second budget exceeding $1B

- By Jameson Cook jcook@medianewsg­

The Macomb County Board of Commission­ers on Wednesday restored a position in Animal Control that it cut two days earlier and approved planned substantia­l pay raises for employees in its final passage of the county’s $1.1 billion budget for 2023.

The 13-member board unanimousl­y passed the spending plan with four additional budget-neutral amendments at its full board meeting in the county Administra­tion Building in Mount Clemens following 20 amendments approved Monday at a board committee meeting. The 2022 budget approved a year ago was the county’s first $1 billion budget.

At Monday’s meeting, the board denied Chief Animal Control Officer Jeff Randazzo’s request to restore an $84,000 position for a grant writer, which has he said been dormant during the COVID-19 but is needed now.

“It’s the board’s belief that it’s an important position,” board Chairman Don Brown said in an interview Wednesday following the meeting. “The chief (Randazzo) is doing an outstandin­g job turning around that shelter. They are under-staffed. This position will help the operations and the bottom line in the long term.”

To fund that position, the board removed $84,000 of $100,000 that it added Monday to pay the nonprofit organizati­on Advancing Macomb to work on assisting small businesses and mentoring other nonprofit organizati­ons, and attracting government grants for those purposes.

That amendment passed by only an 8-5 margin Monday due to questions over why no other bids were sought for it and a lack of details. Brown noted Advancing Macomb will still receive $16,000 that can be used as seed money, and more funds may be available later.

“We’ll revisit that in the future,” he said.

Among other major highlights of the budget is the pay increases for employees that administra­tion officials said two months ago would be about 5% but have revealed since then they likely will be significan­tly higher than that. The exact amount will depend on the outcome of union negotiatio­ns that are currently underway as most of the existing contracts expire at the end of this year, officials said. Employees in recent years have been receiving 2% pay increases, although some employees have received bigger increases as a result of a classifica­tion-and-compensati­on study completed five years ago.

Officials have said the county needs to raise employee wages to compete with other counties and private industry in attracting quality workers.

The budget, which is fluid and can be amended as the year progresses, also includes massive spending for roads, the addition of more than 50 employee positions, about half of them for correction­s officers at the jail, as well as funds for a schools security coordinato­r in Emergency Management, a $2 million subsidy for Martha T. Berry Medical Center and a $300,000 allocation to the Macomb Food Program to bolster local food pantries.

“The Board of Commission­ers takes great pride in the fact that the unanimousl­y adopted budget best serves the citizens of Macomb County,” Brown said in a news release. “We strive to always put the needs of our community at the forefront and are committed to ensuring, to the taxpayers, responsibl­e spending.”

Brown praised Commission­er Joe Sabatini, chair of the Finance, Audit and Budget Committee.

“He did a good job moving us through a complicate­d budget process,” Brown said. “He spent a lot of time and effort.”

“We had a thorough, fully transparen­t, process in place to review this budget,” Sabatini said in the release. “We dissected each department’s budget to ensure our fiduciary duty to the taxpayers. All amendments to the recommende­d budget were made and deliberate­d at public meetings.”

The budget also slightly increases the county’s general-fund ongoing surplus by about $4 million to about $100 million. The fund balance has helped the county maintain a AA+ bond rating.

Brown said the board worked with County Executive Mark Hackel’s administra­tion in finalizing the spending guide.

“It’s been a good relationsh­ip with the County Executive’s office to develop a responsibl­e budget,” he said.

Republican Brown, acknowledg­ing recent criticism of partisansh­ip by two outgoing Democratic commission­ers, noted the bipartisan nature of the final approval as well as nearly all of the 24 amendments passing with bipartisan support.

Former Democratic commission­er Julie Matuzak last week criticized Brown for appointing only Republican­s to the board committee chair posts, and Democratic Commission­er Veronica Klinefelt of Eastpointe, who will leave office Dec. 31, complained about partisansh­ip in the budget process.

Klinefelt was elected to the state Senate and Matuzak was elected to the Clinton Township Board of Trustees earlier this month.

The $305-million general fund, which is funded by county taxpayer and other local dollars, is the secondlarg­est budget item.

The largest category is the Roads Department at $351 million, which is primarily funded by state and federal government dollars. It is an increase of $70 million from this year mostly due to the Innovate Mound “mega-project.” The $133-million allocation for Innovate Mound, which includes some local dollars, represents nearly half of the $270 million allocated for road projects in 2023. The bulk of the rest of road expenses go toward personnel and contract services.

Other large department­s are Community Mental Health and Macomb Community Action, both of which are funded by other government entities.

County Prosecutor Peter Lucido on Wednesday commended the board for amending the budget to provide $84,000 in matching funds to add an investigat­or and two support staffers to increase collection­s of $33 million in outstandin­g child-support payments. Lucido said his office will target 6,750 felony nonsupport cases owing $5,000 or more in child support.

“The real winners are Macomb County children who are owed child support, and thanks to the County Commission, they will get help,” Lucido said.

The board also passed a budget-neutral amendment to authorize Lucido to add up to eight office assistants with a total cost of $173,000 using leftover dollars due to delays in hirings this year.

The board on Wednesday also passed an amendment to increase the Treasurer’s Office investment income by $50,000 to add an expense to work in foreclosur­es.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States