1st Annual Treasurer Meisner Financial Literacy Art Contest
Following through on my commitment to use the Treasurer's Office to promote financial literacy, we're just wrapping up the 1st Annual Treasurer Meisner Financial Literacy Art Contest. The contest is open to all Oakland County middle and high school students, and is aligned to the learning benchmarks on financial literacy included in the state's curriculum. Thanks to the generous financial support of Fifth Third Bank and Genisys Credit Union and to an incredible partnership with the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, we made our first cash awards of almost $10,000 students will use for furthering their education (view photo gallery).
Strategic Planning Process
My first step as the new Oakland County Treasurer was to create and implement a strategic planning process to analyze every aspect of the office's functions and set clear performance measures for everything we do. Being fiscally responsible, we adopted a no-frills budget, deleted five positions, prioritized our functions to make do with what we had and got to the work of achieving our public service mission.
When one of our tax collectors retired and we weren't sure we'd have the money to hire a replacement, I personally went into the field to visit businesses with delinquent taxes to work out a payment plan. One woman was very surprised to see me, saying: "They send you for $1,000?" I told her our office has a job to do and we were going to get it done without excuses.
Oakland County Foreclosure Prevention Initiative
The foreclosure crisis remains at the forefront of people's minds and at the root of the financial problems our county faces. That's why within months of taking office, I launched the Oakland County Foreclosure Prevention Initiative. Any Oakland County homeowner facing difficulty with their mortgage can visit us online at www.fightmortgageforeclosure.com/oakland to get free help fighting foreclosure from licensed housing counselors. The initiative is made possible by the support and partnership of the United Way, Lighthouse of Oakland County, JVS, Green Path Debt Solutions and our own Oakland County Community and Home Improvement. With mortgage foreclosed and abandoned properties continuing to cause property value decreases, blight and crime, I have continued my call for an Oakland County Land Bank to acquire, incubate and quickly dispose of these properties in a way that will return them to the tax rolls for the long term. Enormous percentage increases in the number of tax foreclosed properties we are seeing in Oakland County make the matter very urgent.
Getting out into the community has also meant a "Treasurers Tour;" personal visits to every one of the 61 city, village and township treasurers throughout Oakland County to discuss ways we can economize and work together.
Appointment to Board of the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority
In September 2009 Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed me to serve on the board of the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority. My colleagues on the board elected me Chairman, so I am now helping to deploy effective land bank strategies across the state, from Ottawa County up to Grand Traverse and beyond. Communities across the state are finding land banks to be helpful tools in fighting the effects of foreclosure, and unprecedented federal investment in this area provides a stiff wind at our backs.
Voluntary Pay Cut
With so many families feeling the pain, I thought it was important to share the pain by refusing to accept a county car and gas, or to use a county cell phone. The families of Oakland County employees have felt pain in the form of pay cuts of 2.5% this year and 1.5% next year. While not required to, I joined Brooks Patterson and my countywide colleagues in voluntarily taking the same cut as our teammates.
Reduced Cost by $1 million
Doing more with less means scrutinizing every expenditure and every vendor relationship to find savings. Working with my staff and our Information Technology Department, we were able to shave $1 million off of the cost of a software project to facilitate tax collection. We eliminated bells and whistles and made do with what we had.
Involvement in Legislative Issues Affecting Local Government
While County Treasurer is different from my work as a State Representative and Congressional Aide, I am able to continue my work fighting for Oakland County in Lansing and Washington, D.C. in my new role. When the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) considered ending a transaction account guarantee program that Oakland County and our local governments rely on, I wrote a letter to the FDIC Chairman and our Representatives and Senators advocating for extension of the program, which was granted. Through my service on the Legislative Committee of the Michigan Association of County Treasurers, I also stay involved in legislative issues affecting local government.
AAA Bond Rating
I was very proud to join Brooks Patterson and his executive team on a trip to meet with the ratings agencies to make the case for Oakland County retaining our coveted AAA bond rating. Working together, we made an outstanding presentation and were successful in being one of the few counties in the country to have the AAA rating. Local communities, including Keego Harbor, are able to leverage this rating in saving taxpayers a lot of money on borrowing costs.