Pontiac, Michigan -- Oakland County’s budget is balanced through Fiscal Year 2017 and beyond as the county’s taxable value continues to improve. That’s what County Executive L. Brooks Patterson told the Board of Commissioners Wednesday night as he delivered his budget recommendation.
The general fund/general purpose estimated revenue and appropriations are $418,331,691 for fiscal 2015; $422,406,076 for fiscal 2016; and $425,433,918 for fiscal 2017. The total budget for all funds amounts to $799,779,956 for fiscal 2015; $806,422,075 for fiscal 2016; and $808,553,753 for fiscal 2017. The budget is also balanced for fiscals 2018 and 2019 based on the county’s five-year outlook.
“It is long-range planning coupled with action that separates Oakland County from other counties in Michigan and the nation,” Patterson said. “We believe in thoughtful management, not crisis management.”
The countywide assessed property value showed a marked improvement in 2014 with a 7.11 percent increase. That translated to a 1.65 percent increase in taxable value. The county’s Equalization Division forecasts additional three percent increases in taxable value for each fiscal year through 2017. A one percent increase in taxable value represents about $2 million of additional general fund revenue.
Back in April, Oakland County refinanced its Certificates of Participation which were issued in 2007 to pay off the county’s retiree healthcare obligation. The lower interest rate bonds render gross cumulative savings of $171.1 million, or about an average of $13.2 million a year for 13 years.
Because the refinancing has significantly reduced the cost of providing benefits to employees, the county will be able to retain and attract employees by offering wages that are competitive with but will not lead the private sector. Patterson will recommend to the Board of Commissioners a total general salary increase of three percent in fiscal 2015, two percent for fiscal 2016, and one percent for fiscal 2017.
“During the past 10 years, Oakland County’s general salary increase has clearly been conservative and has lagged behind labor market increases and the consumer price index,” Patterson said. “With the need to recruit and retain, it is imperative that our ‘total compensation’ package be competitively positioned.”
The recommended general salary increase for fiscal 2015 combined with the two percent general salary increase in fiscal 2014 will return employees’ salaries to just one percent above their 2009 salary levels. Full-time county employees’ salaries had been cut a total of four percent in fiscals 2010 and 2011. There were no general salary increases in fiscals 2012 and 2013. In the first quarter of fiscal 2013, full-time employees received a one-time $500 lump-sum, non-recurring payment which was not included in the base pay structure. Since it was a one-time payment, there was no impact on future operating budgets.
Patterson will also recommend that employee annual tuition reimbursements rise from $2,400 to $4,200.
“As the ‘Baby Boomers’ retire from the county, more and more promotional opportunities become available and the tuition reimbursement program offers one way for employees to be ready to advance their careers,” Patterson said.
Other budget recommendations will include capital and technology improvements to enhance security at county buildings and restoration of the 19th judgeship at Sixth Circuit Court. The State of Michigan provides funds for the judge, but the county provides support staff.
Oakland County has continued to keep its employee healthcare costs flat. Among the reasons are the OakFit employee wellness program; increases in employee healthcare contributions in 2008 and 2009; and competitive bids with aggressive negotiations with vendors in 2009, 2010, and 2011, among others. Going forward, the county thinks it would be unrealistic to assume there will be no increase in employee healthcare expenditures. Therefore, Patterson’s recommended budget includes an annual increase of six percent for employee healthcare in each of the next three fiscal years.
Patterson acknowledged the countywide elected officials for their efforts to help maintain a balanced budget.
“This budget was balanced without a tax increase and ensures delivery of needed services to the Oakland County citizens for the next three years,” Patterson said. “And it was accomplished through a partnership of all Oakland County elected officials who have embraced the prospect of reshaping our county government to become stronger and even more efficient in the long run.”
He also thanked county employees. “I also want to take this opportunity to thank the Oakland County employees for their patience, dedication and hard work,” Patterson said.
For media inquiries only, please contact Bill Mullan, media and communications officer, at 248-858-1048.