Flint, MI–With one week until the start of a new fiscal year, the Genesee County Commission has still not adopted a budget.
At the board meeting Wednesday morning, the vote to approve the accepted proposed budget failed with a vote of 5-4.
Last week commissioners accepted the proposed budget which left the sheriff and prosecutor’s offices unhappy as millions of dollars were cut from their departments.
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, but Director of Administration Joshua Freeman said public safety accounts for just under 60% of the general fund budget which is the highest it’s been in the last five years.
Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said that percentage “doesn’t beget the fact, [he’s] gonna lose three assistant prosecuting attorney positions and four secretaries.”
The sheriff’s office will not experience layoffs, but Sheriff Chris Swanson said there will be a few currently vacant positions that just won’t get filled including a jail sergeant, a court deputy, and a secretary.
Commissioner Shaun Shumaker, who did not vote to support the approval of the budget, said the public safety aspect of the budget is “very disconcerting” and “upsetting.”
“That being said, it’s tough to decide which one of your children gets to eat when you don’t have the funds and everyone’s fighting for those dollars,” Shumaker said.
He disapproved of the phrase he said was being thrown around, that they were “cut to the bone.”
“We are not cut to the bone,” Shumaker said. “I hate to continue to cut public safety and then dip into the reserve when we haven’t really taken out all the costs that should be taken off before we get to these programs that are so important.”
Commissioner Brenda Clack also voted not to approve the budget, and said that with low numbers of police and other safety issues, her community “doesn’t know what’s going to happen next.”
“My community is suffering now with some of the most horrendous things…I cannot weaken the safety, the security of my community,” Clack said.
Another concern brought up with the proposed budget had to do with cuts to retiree healthcare.
“The last issue I really have is…back to the retirees and retiree healthcare…long-term negotiated benefits that you know for retirees, retired police, other employees,” said Commissioner Mark Young. “You know, I don’t really like that we build this process going forward on what I see, in part, on the backs of that, by reducing the costs of care.”
Freeman said retiree healthcare makes up the second largest portion of the general fund budget at 20%. He said the remaining 20% of the general fund funds every other activity.
Commissioner David Martin said some items in the budget needed to be looked at “in a society-type picture.”
“We need families to be stronger in community, we need stronger schools, better graduation rates,” Martin said. “We need to address the underlying causes so we don’t have to keep increasing these costs for public safety and we can actually have a better community.”
Chairman Martin Cousineau requested the Chief Financial Officer Chrystal Simpson begin developing the next budget so the commissioners will have a two-year budget going forward.