County budget to help attract employees

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson thanked the Board of Commissioners for passing his balanced three-year budget in a unanimous vote last Thursday. The budget, which is balanced through 2020, includes the second part of the .15 mills property tax reduction announced in Patterson’s 2015 State of the County speech and focuses on reinvesting for sustainability

“We have had tremendous support over the years from our employees, most labor unions, and elected officials in holding the line on wages,” Patterson said. “Now it’s time to ensure we can retain our employees and attract qualified candidates with responsible wage increases.”

The general fund budgets for fiscals 2016-2018 are approximately $430 million, $438 million, and $443 million respectively. The total budgets are $826 million, $833 million and $837 million. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

The budget fulfills the second part of Patterson’s .15 mills property tax reduction. The commissioners passed a .10 mills decrease this past spring for the summer tax bills. The budget for fiscal 2016 implements the additional .05 mills of Patterson’s tax cut. The county’s new operational millage rate is 4.04 mills. The .15 mills reduction will save taxpayers approximately $75 million over 10 years.

The county lost the greatest percentage of property value—34.3 percent from 2007 to 2012—of any county in Michigan during the Great Recession which translated to a significant decline in revenue. County employees and elected officials stepped up and absorbed a four percent salary reduction and the elimination of a $300 county match to a voluntary deferred compensation fund, among other sacrifices to help the county cope with the declining revenue.

Now that the labor market is heating up and one-third of the county’s workforce is expected to retire or leave voluntarily in the next three to five years, Patterson wants Oakland County to remain competitive for attracting and retaining employees. To achieve that, county employees will see:
• A general salary increase for each of the next three years effective Oct. 1, 2015 (three percent for fiscal 2016, two percent for fiscal 2017, and one percent for fiscal 2018).

• Reinstatement of the county’s match of up to $300 annually for the voluntary deferred compensation plan 457(b) effective January 1, 2016 (this is separate from the county’s defined contribution retirement plan for employees).

• Plus, a $25 bi-weekly increase in the county’s Retiree Health Savings plan for employees from $50 to $75. The county eliminated traditional retiree health coverage for new employees in 2006.

The budget also increases the county’s Building Improvement Fund by $4 million from $1.5 million to $5.5 million. An ongoing appropriation of this amount annually would provide sufficient funding for projected capital improvement needs of existing facilities over the next 10 years. The county made only necessary repairs and improvements during the Great Recession as another way of reducing costs. The additional building improvement funds will go toward improving security in county buildings and general repairs that were deferred during the Great Recession.

A robust economic recovery and strong fiscal practices are enabling Oakland County to focus on attracting and retaining employees and improving government facilities, Patterson said.

“Oakland County’s future is bright: Employment is up, housing starts and prices are up, and the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well,” Patterson said. “Much of Oakland County’s financial success results from its focus on long-term financial planning – emphasizing thoughtful strategic management versus crisis management.”

To view the county budget, go to www.OakGov.com/mgtbud/fiscal.