Pontiac, MI - Shaped by a vision for post-pandemic recovery, Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter submitted a balanced three-year budget recommendation to the Board of Commissioners (BOC) Thursday, July 1, 2021.
Among his administration’s new proposals are investing further into cyber security, creating a countywide Incident Management Team, launching a Conviction Integrity Unit in the Prosecutor’s Office, and supporting existing programs such as Health 360, Oakland 80, and the Clean Slate initiative.
“The collaboration between this administration and the Board of Commissioners to swiftly address the pandemic by allocating the funds needed during the early days of testing and tracing all the way through vaccinating our residents has been remarkable,” Coulter said. “Although nearly 70 percent of our residents are vaccinated and it seems as though the worst of the pandemic is behind us, the budget that I present to you today is still greatly influenced by the global health crisis that hit our county on in March 2020.”
The pandemic highlighted the critical need to plan for disasters. Currently, an Incident Management Team, which can instantly respond to emergency situations like natural disasters, fires, hazardous material spills, or even a pandemic is run through a group of fire departments in the county. Coulter’s budget recommendation will bring the management of that Incident Management Team under the umbrella of the county’s Emergency Management Division, creating a countywide resource for all communities.
Coulter’s recommended budget also includes investing in upgrades to the county’s computer systems that enhance protection of county technology systems and the data of residents.
Coulter and Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald announced a key criminal justice reform last week proposing the creation of the Conviction Integrity Unit in the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office to make certain that people who may have been wrongly convicted get the chance to have their cases investigated by a team dedicated to ensuring they receive the justice that has eluded them. The Oakland County Prosecutor’s office has a running list of people who are looking for investigations into their convictions.
The budget recommendation includes funding for an environmental sustainability officer which the BOC has already authorized. The individual who fills this position will help develop the county’s environmental sustainability plan with a goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions on the county campus by 2030.
Coulter’s budget supports programs he launched early in his administration to boost Oakland County’s economic future. They include:
- The expansion of Health 360 to include behavioral and mental health services, a critical need that became even more urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health 360 is Oakland County’s partnership with Honor Community Health and the Oakland Livingston Human Services Agency (OLHSA) that provides quality and affordable health and dental care to the county’s most vulnerable residents. It also delivers wraparound resources for residents who need help in other areas, such as food and rent assistance programs, navigating how to get low-cost insurance, and referrals to other resources throughout the county.
- Support of Oakland 80, which calls for 80 percent of Oakland County adult residents to get a college degree or training certificate by 2030, has several programs in the works to help connect students with higher education opportunities and, ultimately, good paying jobs.
- Ensuring the continued success of the Clean Slate Initiative, which provides help for residents who want to take advantage of the state’s new expungement laws. In the first two months of the program, nearly 1,200 people applied for help to get their records expunged so they can get back into the workforce without having to worry about being turned away for past mistakes. The first court hearings on those expungement applications begin in August. This initiative will continue to pay off for both residents, who need a second chance and a good-paying job, and businesses, which are desperate for workers.
Coulter’s budget recommendation highlighted Oakland County’s resolve to remain fiscally responsible including maintaining a healthy fund balance and retaining the county’s AAA bond rating. Departing from past practices, the county executive continues to move away from using fund balance to balance the budget. As the budget is aligned into structural balance, he has committed to utilizing fund balance only to protect county programs and services during times of economic downturn or emergency or for one-time investments that have long-term return on investment for residents of Oakland County.
To balance the cost of implementing a salary study begun under the previous administration to attract and retain county employees in a competitive job market and ensure the budget addresses all known spending needs to support county services, the county executive administration asked for a seven to 10 percent cost reduction in workforce costs across county departments. The cost reductions will be achieved over three years by eliminating vacant positions, reducing positions over time through attrition as employees depart through the voluntary early separation incentive program, and identifying other operational efficiencies.
Coulter’s budget recommendation is balanced at $482.1 million in General Fund/General Purpose spending for fiscal 2022, $483.5 million for fiscal 2023, and $492.9 million for fiscal 2024. The total budget for all funds includes $965.5 million for fiscal 2022, $959.0 million for fiscal 2023, and $973.5 million for fiscal 2024.
With the exception of limited funds to address direct county costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, spending to support recovery from the pandemic and long-term transformational investments in the county from Oakland County’s $244 million share of the American Rescue Plan will be separate from the main budget process, based on the recommendations of the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force reconvened by Coulter in April and in collaboration with the Board of Commissioners.
Coulter’s administration will formally present the budget recommendation to the Board of Commissioners on July 22. Click here to view the budget recommendation.