Wayne County Executive: Budget deficit almost gone
Just a few months after a state-declared financial emergency, Wayne County officials are trumpeting what they call “swift” and “substantial” progress on the county’s budget deficit.
After that declaration from Gov. Rick Snyder – which came at County Executive Warren Evans’ request –Wayne County quickly entered into a consent agreement with the state. That gave Evans substantial power to get concessions from county employee unions.
Now, Evans says the county’s $82 million accumulated deficit is wiped out – and its $53 million annual budget gap has been shaved down to $3.7 million.
Evans instituted a spending freeze, reorganized and consolidated some operations, and renegotiated contracts with employee unions.
But the bulk of the savings – almost $900 million – came from eliminating health care for all county retirees.
“Our actions this year have been swift and impactful,” Evans said in a statement his office released Tuesday. “The substantial progress we have made, particularly regarding our finances, has been possible because of innovative ideas from my team, the cooperative relationship we have established with the County Commission and the support of other leaders across Wayne County.”
Evans acknowledged the county still faces two major fiscal hurdles, though.
One is beefing up its underfunded pension system. Despite cutting future pension obligations by nearly $126 million, the system is still only 46% funded, according to the latest county projections.
Another big problem is what to do with the county’s half-built jail. The county stopped construction on the jail because of cost overruns, but it still costs over $1 million a month.
An audit of the project ordered by the Wayne County Commission found potential criminal wrongdoing, and led to three indictments. However, that audit has never been publicly released under orders from two Wayne County judges.
Evans has said he could announce his plans for the jail early next year.