Flint, MI–The Genesee County Commission voted 6-3 to accept a proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which makes big cuts to the prosecutor’s office and the sheriff’s department. 

The proposed budget would cut $777,000 from the general fund for the prosecutor’s office and $2.5 million from the sheriff’s department. 

The commission’s acceptance of the proposed budget is the beginning of a dialogue that will occur over the next two weeks before the budget is officially adopted. 

Prosecutor David Leyton spoke during the county commission meeting and expressed his disapproval of the proposed budget cuts to his office.

“That level of reduction in our budget will result in layoffs,” Leyton said. “We cannot sustain if you want us to operate at a serviceable level.”

Leyton presented commissioners with an analysis of the prosecutor’s office done by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit global policy think tank, which found the office to be “eight and a half prosecutors short.”

“Reductions mean human beings’ livelihoods are disrupted and people lose their jobs,” Leyton said. “The folks who will lose their jobs are the folks who took voluntary layoffs during COVID, to help the county…if you vote for Chairman Cousineau’s proposed budget, your thanks to those folks is a pink slip.”

Leyton said he proposed almost $400,000 worth of reallocating funding for his office as a counter offer and said he could “do that without layoffs.” He said the difference could and should be covered from the reserves.

“COVID-19 is a once-in-a-lifetime situation. It seems to me, that’s exactly the time to use the reserve,” he said. 

Director of Administration Joshua Freeman said that with Leyton’s reallocation of funds through grants rather than the general fund, the actual remaining cut would be $388,000.

Leyton said he was trying to show cooperation as a team member, but that moving people around to save money would not necessarily make their operations more efficient.

“We had put individuals in certain positions because that’s where we felt they would have the most success. Now we’re moving them into positions because we’re trying to save money,” Leyton said. “It’s like you’re taking your right tackle in football and moving that person to running back or quarterback.” 

Sheriff Chris Swanson said he was grateful his department would not have to layoff anyone, but that there were three vacant positions that just won’t get filled: a jail sergeant, a court deputy, and a secretary.

“I had known that this was gonna be a very difficult year for the budget,” Swanson said. “It was no surprise, I just didn’t know the number.”

He said the cuts were not something he was unfamiliar with, as he dealt with big cuts ten years ago as undersheriff.

“It’s tough for anybody, and it’s difficult for me,” he said.

Freeman said at the meeting that public safety as a percentage of the budget is at the highest percentage it’s been at in the last five years, at just under 60%.

Commissioner Martin Cousineau said the commission “did put a high value on public safety” as they created the budget, and made cuts to public safety only after making cuts to every other department. 

Commissioner Brenda Clack said there are many departments “where people are being paid so little.”

“I don’t see the prosecutor’s office as that desperate, but I do know there are young people there whose lives can be overturned…with them not in their positions,” she said. 

Commissioner Mark Young called the budget “an attack on the sheriff and the prosecutor’s office.”

There will be a public hearing on Sept. 23, at 9 a.m. to discuss the proposal.

Amy Diaz

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...