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County is under consent agreement

The Wayne County Commission approved a consent agreement between the county and state in response to Gov. Rick Snyder's declaration of a financial emergency in Wayne County. On June 17, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans requested that the state review the county's finances and declare a financial emergency under state law so the county could proceed toward a consent agreement. A series of reviews and reports followed, and Snyder declared the financial emergency July 30.

Among the items that led Snyder to declare a financial emergency in Wayne County, according to his report, were variances in the last four audits between revenues and expenditures ranging from $16.7 million to $23.7 million; unbudgeted expenditures, in violation of Public Act 2 of 1968; the unfinished jail project in downtown Detroit; and unfunded health care-related liabilities of about $1.3 billion.

The governor's declaration required the Wayne County Commission to choose one of four options - consent agreement, neutral evaluation (a form of mediation), emergency manager or Chapter 9 bankruptcy - by Aug. 6. The Commission voted Aug. 6 to choose the consent agreement option. A proposed consent agreement was negotiated between the county administration and state Department of Treasury, which the Commission approved Aug. 13.

A consent agreement, as it relates to financially distressed municipalities under Michigan law (Public Act 436 of 2012), is a pact between the state and a local government that sets guidelines and goals to reach a clearly defined resolution of the financial distress.

The consent agreement between Wayne County and the state of Michigan includes:

  • Remedial measures will be implemented to eliminate the county's structural deficit. A structural deficit occurs when an entity requires more money to operate than it has available.
  • The separate powers of the Wayne County executive and Wayne County Commission are largely retained, keeping the county's operations in the hands of officials elected by the people.
  • The county executive will have the additional power to impose contract terms on union employees whose contracts have expired, which affects almost all unions in the county.
  • A "revenue estimating conference" will be held twice each year, with selected officials tasked with reviewing and reaching consensus on the county's anticipated revenues.
  • A series of reports must be filed with the state, including monthly reports of the county's cash flow and cash position, and quarterly reports on the status of implemented remedial actions, financial status and potential liabilities, including pending lawsuits or legal actions to which the county is a party.
  • By Jan. 31, 2016, the county executive must file a report with the state addressing the projected needs of the county jail system. Without referencing the unfinished jail project downtown, this provision requires the county to provide a plan, including proposed capital improvements, and projected available financial resources for the plan. It does not require a specific location for a jail, just that the county establish goals and funding for a solution.
  • Any new debt, including certain lease and installment purchase transactions, requires approval of the state treasurer.

WCCCD campuses being patrolled by county sheriffs

Wayne County sheriff's deputies will continue to patrol at Wayne County Community College District's three Detroit campuses under a contract recently approved by the Commission.

Three deputies will patrol and a civilian will serve as an outreach worker under the agreement, which expires June 30, 2016. It's the 11th year for the relationship between the college and county.

The deputies will assist the college's police force between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. weekdays when classes are in session at the Downtown Campus at 1001 W. Fort St., the Eastern Campus at 5901 Conner and the Northwest Campus at 8200 W. Outer Drive.

"The deputies will continue to not only make the Detroit campuses safe, they also will make the surrounding areas safe as well," Commissioner Martha G. Scott said. "It is important that Wayne County Community College students learn in a safe environment.

"In July, the value of this arrangement was proven when the Sheriff's Office made an arrest of a woman who carried a loaded handgun in her purse at the Downtown Campus."

The civilian employee's job is to recruit new deputies and interns.

"That's especially important because the Sheriff's Office has really been struggling with overtime costs with jail staffing," Commissioner Scott said. "Hiring deputies to fill the many vacant positions in the jails will not only provide jobs to students, it will help the county considerably as it tries to resolve its financial issues. This contract is a win for everyone."

The one-year contract is for $700,000 in new money, to be paid by the college. Combined with leftover money from last school year, the total actually will be $960,406. The money will pay for salaries, benefits and other expenses, and the college also will provide office space and equipment.

Tax-foreclosed properties offered in online auction

Thousands of tax-foreclosed properties are being sold in an online property auction conducted by the Wayne County Treasurer's Office.

More than 20,000 residential, commercial and vacant parcels were put up for sale this month during the first phase of the auction. The deadline for registering to participate this month has passed, but potential buyers still have an opportunity to pick up remaining properties during the October portion of the auction, when bidding will start at $500.

Buyers must be registered and provide a deposit to bid. Registration for the October auction will take place Oct. 2-8. Interested people can register or get more information online and see a list of properties at waynecountytreasurermi.com.

Questions can be directed to 313-224-2864 or emailed to: WCTauction@waynecounty.com. The Treasurer's Office provides assistance to help taxpayers remain in their homes, but if property taxes go unpaid for three years, the Treasurer is required by state law to foreclose and then sells the property by auction.

Purchased properties must remain current on tax payments. The 2015 summer tax bill will be added to each purchase.

All sales are "as is," with no representations made as to the condition of any property.

WIC program offers assistance for needy mothers

An important part of a good start in life is good nutrition. That's the goal of the Women, Infants & Children program administered by the Wayne County Health Department via the Michigan Department of Community Health.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program is for low- to moderate-income women who are pregnant, delivered a baby within the last six months or are breastfeeding a child up to 1 year old; infants up to 1 year old; and children up to their fifth birthday who have a nutrition-related health problem.

The WIC program includes assistance for purchasing healthy food; high-risk nutrition counseling; health care referrals; and breastfeeding promotion and support.

The Wayne County Health Department has 12 WIC offices, including one each in Hamtramck and Highland Park.

For further information about the Wayne County program, please call 734-727- 7156 or visit online at www. waynecounty.com/hhs/wic. htm. Detroit residents should contact the Detroit Urban League at 313-832-4600 or the Institute for Population Health at 313-309-9350.