Washtenaw County, MI – Last week, at their final meeting of 2021, the Board of Commissioners approved an operating budget for 2022, as well as proposed budgets for 2023-2025. Washtenaw County operates using a quadrennial budget model, forecasting revenues and expenditures 4 years out, with annual budgets being approved to account for any changes from the originally approved budget. The approved 2022 operating budget is balanced and represents $328,027,359 in revenues and expenditures.
The budget year for 2022 was planned previously as part of the quadrennial budget; however, the operating budget approved on Wednesday, December 1st, does have some differences due to increased revenues beyond what was expected. The majority of which is due to increases in property tax revenue, as well as new revenue from the taxation of recreational marijuana sales. County Administration recommended using these funds to account for rising organizational costs, including staff compensation, to ensure Washtenaw County Government is able to run effectively. Other new expenditures approved by the Board in the 2021 budget include the creation of a permanently funded position to run the Conviction Integrity and Expungement Unit (CIEU) and allocating the entirety of recreational marijuana tax revenue to fund increasing the capacity of the Racial Equity Office.
“We had a lot of healthy conversations throughout the budget reaffirmation process this year and made some important new investments like creating the Conviction Integrity and Expungement Unit and expanding funding for the Racial Equity Office,” said Sue Shink, Chair of the Board of Commissioner and Commissioner for District 2 “I’m confident we will continue to have these important and productive conversations as we start working on our next 4-year budget in 2022 to make sure we are investing in the areas that our community needs and values.”
The approved operating budget for 2022 maintains the level of funding currently provided to human service agencies. A separate resolution that was unanimously approved on the same evening allows funds to be used for 6-month transition grants for previous Coordinated Funding grantees, as County and City of Ann Arbor leadership continue developing the new model to fund human services in Washtenaw County. The funding extension resources for safety net programs operated by the following organizations: Aid in Milan, Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels, Ypsilanti YMCA Early Childhood Development Center, Corner Health, Faith in Action, Food Gatherers, Growing Hope, Housing Access for Washtenaw County, Manchester Community Resource Center, Mentor2Youth, Milan Seniors for Healthy Living, Ozone House, Packard Health, PATH/Port, Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, Washtenaw Community College Parkridge Youth Program, and Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels.
There was an extended discussion on a budget amendment brought by Commissioner Jason Morgan to create a dedicated staff position to manage and cultivate the Barrier Busters program, a network of over 100 social service agencies organized by the Office of Community and Economic Development. The amendment also increased the existing level of funding that the Board provides to the Barrier Busters Emergency Unmet Needs Fund, which agencies can access to help community members with onetime costs to prevent evictions, prevent utility shutoffs, and cover other emergency costs that could threaten a resident's housing or financial stability.
Ultimately, the Board unanimously approved a modified version of the amendment that included a $75,000 increase to the Barrier Busters Unmet Needs Fund but removed the creation of a position at this time. County Administrator Greg Dill committed to having conversations with Teresa Gillotti, Director of the Office of Community and Economic Development, to continue to review potential staffing suggestions to ensure the program is optimally staffed and supported in early 2022.
“Barrier Busters reaches hundreds of households on the brink of crisis every year,” said Jason Morgan, Commissioner for District 8, while explaining the purpose of his proposed budget amendment. “When someone needs assistance making ends meet, whether it's keeping the lights on, staying in their home, or fixing their car so they can continue working, it is the most nimble and flexible program at helping our residents. I will continue to advocate that this program receives additional resources and support to maximize the positive impact it can have in our community.”
2022 marks the end of a full, 4-year budget cycle that began in 2019. Next year, the Board of Commissioners will engage in a more extensive budget planning process to approve a 2023-2026 quadrennial budget by the end of the year.