Pontiac, Michigan -- A robust economic recovery and strong fiscal practices are enabling Oakland County to focus on attracting and retaining employees and improving government facilities, County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said during his annual budget address to the Board of Commissioners today. Patterson’s recommended budget is balanced through the year 2020.
“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.”
The general fund budgets for fiscals 2016-2018 are approximately $429 million, $437 million, and $442 million respectively. The total budgets are $825 million, $832 million and $835 million.
The proposed budget takes into account the second part of Patterson’s .15 mills property tax reduction which he announced in his 2015 State of the County speech. The commissioners passed a .10 mills decrease this past spring for the summer tax bills. Patterson’s proposed budget calls for the implementation of the additional .05 mills tax cut. That will result in a 4.04 millage rate.
Oakland County total employee compensation has lagged behind the labor market and the Consumer Price Index for a decade because of the prudence of Patterson’s administration. 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, he recommended:
- 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);
- To reinstate 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);
- 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.
“We have experienced tremendous support from 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 new ones when we have open positions.”
Patterson also recommended a $4 million increase in the county’s Building Improvement Fund from $1.5 million to $5.5 million. An ongoing appropriation of this amount annually would provide sufficient funding for projected standard 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.
Other highlights of Patterson’s budget message to the Board of Commissioners included:
- Patterson’s economic diversification initiatives such as Emerging Sectors, Medical Main Street, and Tech 248 are fueling Oakland County’s recovery. After the initial recovery burst in 2011-2012 when almost 50,000 new jobs were added, job growth continues at a moderate pace with nearly 30,000 jobs added during the two years of 2013-2014.
- University of Michigan economists Dr. George A. Fulton and Donald R. Grimes forecasted that about 49,000 new jobs will be added in Oakland County over the next three-year period from 2015 through 2017.
- Oakland County’s most recent unemployment rate of 4.1 percent in April 2015 is below both Michigan’s rate of 5.4 percent and the national average of 5.4 percent.
- Oakland County’s per capita personal income of $57,035 for 2013 is the highest of any county in Michigan and higher than the national average.
- Sheriff deed foreclosures continue to decline and are currently estimated to be 1,500 in 2015, the lowest level in the 10-year period dating back to 2005.
- After five years of continued declines, property assessments finally stabilized in 2013 when assessed value increased county-wide by a modest 1.16 percent with no change in taxable value. Since then, assessed value has increased significantly by 7.11 percent in 2014 and 10.39 percent in 2015. The increase in 2015 assessed value is the largest increase since 1999, signaling a robust recovery.
- Taxable value is increasing at a more modest pace as a result of constitutional tax increase limitations. Taxable value increased in 2014 and 2015 by 1.65 percent and 3.69 percent respectively.
- The recommended budget includes an additional $2 million annually in the gross amount from the Convention Facility Liquor Tax. The additional budgeted revenue is partially offset by an additional $1 million expenditure requirement to fund the Substance Abuse Coordinating Agency operated by the Community Mental Health Authority, resulting in a net $1 million increase for the county’s general operations.
- The recommended budget will see a $1.8 million reduction in the transfer of funds from the Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund (DTRF) to the General Fund for both fiscals 2017 and 2018. As a result, the amount that will be transferred from the DTRF to the General Fund will be $10.8 million in fiscal 2016 and $9.0 million each in fiscals 2017 and 2018.
Budget hearings will begin Thursday, July 23 at 10:00 a.m. at the Board of Commissioners Finance Committee meeting. The full board will vote on the budget on Thursday, Sept. 17 at 9:30 a.m. To view Patterson’s complete recommended budget, go to www.OakGov.com/mgtbud/fiscal and click on “FY2016 – FY2018 County Executive Recommended Budget.”
For media inquiries only, please contact Bill Mullan, Oakland County media and communications officer, at 248-858-1048.