Something About The Budget Smells Funny

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As pointed out by Owosso Mayor Ben Fredrick, the proposed budget doesn’t quite smell right.  Check out this graph that shows how much our county spent each year, and how much of that spending was “deficit” spending.

Interesting

A few things to point out:

  • In 2010 we actually made about $200,000 which we deposited in our fund balance.  We’re going to spend it over the next few years.
  • From there on out our deficit held steady around $250,000/year until 2014.
  • In 2014 our county government blew their proposed budget by overspending on Health & Welfare and General Government to expand our deficit to $505,000, otherwise this number would have been right around $250,000 as well.

So here’s my question, based on the chart above Shiawassee County has a deficit of:

a. $250,000-$500,000   -or-   b. $2.163 million dollars

If you choose “b”, there might be a seat waiting for you on our county commission.  Now, a followup question.  Based on your first answer we should cut public safety by:

a. No more than $250,000.  -or-  b. $1.5 million dollars.

If you picked “b” you really should consider running for office.  You’re obviously smarter than the rest of us.

Time for the bonus question!   Based on the graph above and the proposed budget why is the county having to cut spending so much?

a.  Because the County Sheriffs Department Generates a Substantial amount of revenue for the county.  -or-

b.  Because it’s just the right thing to do.

If you answered “a”, you’re right again!  Notice a few huge decreases in the proposed budget:

  • 4% less state Revenue and Grants-I’m sure this probably includes the SRP grant I mentioned yesterday.
  • 11% less in Fines and Forfeitures.
  • 17% less in Charges for Services citing a reduction in court charges.  Makes sense-they’ll be a lot less people going to court.

The County Commissioners are so intent on punishing the voters of this county that they would “cut off their nose, to spite their face.”

I should note that all these numbers are available from the county website, so feel free to do this same exercise yourself.

Meanwhile, help out the cause by sharing this site with your friends.  Together we can fix this!

Also feel free to contact me at anytime if you’d like to share something privately.   I can be reached at:

Email Me Anytime

Email Me Anytime

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The Plan and the Goal

Before reading this post, you might want to scroll down to the bottom of this blog and read through the individual posts.  There’s plenty of background on what I’m about to discuss below.

Here’s what we’ve learned so far:

I didn’t realize why they are not responding to my emails, until I saw Owosso Mayor Ben Fredrick’s post on the budget.  Now it is crystal clear: they’re scared.  I inadvertently called their bluff.  There were two main themes to my emails:

  • To the commissioners: Either fix the county budget to restore our road patrol, or I will collect enough signatures to initiate a Preliminary Financial Review under PA 436 of 2012.
  • To the sheriff: Either sue the county for failure to provide legally mandated public safety programs, or I will collect enough signatures to initiate a Preliminary Financial Review under PA 436 of 2012.

My assumption at the time was that the county was either:

  • Financially Insolvent-In which case better to force them to fix it now than later -OR-
  • Had a lot of misplaced priorities-In which case the thought of having to undergo a state audit and possible Emergency Financial Manager, would prompt them to quickly adjust their priorities.

Just a note on my personal opinion of EFM’s-I believe that Emergency Financial Manager is the most anti-democratic concept in the history of our state.  The very concept makes me nauseous.  However, based on my research, and contrary to what our county commissioners are telling us, we are not in bad enough shape to warrant an EFM.  In fact, I don’t believe we’re in bad enough shape to cut public safety by a single dime.  I think our commissioners are greatly exaggerating our budget issues as part their personal agendas or vendettas.

So why are they scared?  Because a preliminary financial audit of our county finances will reveal the truth and make a lot of politicians look really bad.  That final report would be public information: compiled by the treasury and posted on the State website.  Our County government would have no input into the process, and no ability to “spin” the information!  Up to this point the county has yet to release a detailed budget for next year.  Why do you suppose that is?  My guess is that they’re trying to hide the “true numbers” until after the budget is approved.  The transparency provided by this preliminary financial review could end political careers, and even if it doesn’t-nobody likes to be audited right?

At this point you’re probably wondering why we don’t just try to recall the Commissioners or Sheriff?  Because recalls are hard and they take too long: There is complicated ballot language, approval issues, and thousands of signatures required to make it happen.  We need to get our Sheriffs back on the job ASAP.  We don’t have time for elections, appeals, and litigation.

Requesting a preliminary financial review under PA 436 is easy: There are no language/ballot requirements, no means of appealing or fighting the petition, and all we would need are the signatures of 5% of the number of people who voted in the gubernatorial election. That’s only 1213 signatures.  Compare that to the 6062 we would need to prompt a recall election!

With only 81 signatures per “pink slipped public safety employee”, we can fix this.  I am prepared to do exactly that.

That being said-Let’s hope we don’t have to!

Our first and best option is that the our County Commissioners realize that this isn’t going to end well for them and decide to go back and take a realistic approach to budgeting.  This is a good possibility now that Mayor Fredrick called them out on their questionable budgeting practices.   That should draw a few hundred people to the commission meeting on December 12th!

Our second option is that Sheriff Braidwood realizes that cutting the road patrol will ensure that he never holds another public office again and decides to take legal action against the county commission for failing provide funding for mandatory services.  As of January 1st, 2015 he will be failing to carry out his duties as Sheriff as required by MCL 51.  It is important to note that the Sheriff, not the commissioners, can be sued for this.

Call your Commissioner and Sheriff.  Tell them to stop playing games with our safety.  Tell them that if they don’t, you will sign the petition for a preliminary financial audit under PA 436 of 2012.

If that doesn’t work, help me gather the 1213 signatures that we need.  I will have the petition ready for signatures on December 11th.  If the commission decides to approve the budget, we will immediately begin to gather the signatures necessary to Save our Road Patrol.

Thank you for helping me protect those who protect us!

Mayor Ben Frederick Exposes The Truth About the Budget

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Mayor Ben Frederick of Owosso is officially my hero.  In today’s Durand Independent Mayor Frederick wrote a scathing review of the County’s budget.  You can click here for the entire article, otherwise, here are the highlights:

If you’re watching the slow motion meltdown of the Shiawassee County government since the Nov. 4 election and believe it doesn’t have to be this way, you’re right.  Sound budgeting principles combined with a bit of political will over the next few weeks can save our road patrol while giving a new Board of Commissioners time to work on the reforms necessary to right the ship.

If you’re beginning to wonder if the whole targeted attack on public safety is just a game of political retribution, you’re right.

The mayor goes on to say that:

It is absurd that the deficit is being framed in terms of cuts from a “requested” budget.  A request budget represents a “wish list” prior to an actual budget proposal.  I may “want” $30 instead of $20 next year, but if I instead only get $15, I’m not being “cut” $15 – I’m being cut $5…

This false cut serves to mask real cuts being made to our road patrol…

Last year’s budget was adopted at $16.336 million, which is a reduction of $1.113 million, not the $2.163 million figure that is being thrown around.  With a $1.113 million reduction, it is hard to understand why there is a $1.5 million cut proposed to the Sheriff’s Office.  This reduction is more than the entire budget hole! …

Increases in revenue sharing should exceed $285,000 according to the Department of Treasury.  It is unclear how much of this increase is budgeted …

Property tax collection increases are estimated at over $100,000…

The approval of the veterans millage replaces the $157,000 in prior General Fund expenditure…

The county’s Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund has generated a 10 year average of $765,000 in revenue and its $8 million dollar fund balance has remained largely steady…

No, the fund has not been “exhausted.”  Transferring the 10 year average …would add $314,000 to the general Fund.

Yes-Mayor Fredrick estimates that instead of a $2.163 million dollar shortfall, the county is instead only facing a $399,500 shortfall.  This is a huge difference!  If this is true, the taxpayers of this county are being lied to.  If this is true, this is FRAUD.  Our Deputies are pawns in a game of politics and it needs to stop!

The mayor also points out that:

The board of commissioners is to be commended for their recent change to non-represented employee pensions.  The board has estimated that this will save $300,000 per year once fully implemented.  With $300,000 in projected savings, why lay off people now?

County Commission-If what Mayor Fredrick said is true, then why are you misrepresenting the budget?  Why are you using our officers as pawns in a political game?  These Sheriffs work hard everyday for the people of our county.  They have children to feed and buy Christmas presents for.  What have they done to you?

Sheriff Braidwood-You now have no choice.  You must sue the County to adequately fund your department.  You can no longer allow this fraud to be perpetuated.   Under Article VII, Section 6 of the Michigan constitution you can be held personally liable for not doing so!

I will leave you with one final quote from Mayor Fredrick’s editorial today:

the budget summary was released later than promised and left little time for a complete exhaustive review.  The budget detail remains unreleased.

Why would they be waiting to release the details of the budget until after they vote on it?  Because they don’t want us to know until it’s too late!  The people of Shiawassee county deserve better.  Let’s hope that our newly elected commissioners can give us the representative democracy that we deserve.