Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Special Guest Blogger: Commissioner Brian McGrain on Human Services

For the next two weeks, I have decided to get the perspective of other commissioners. With the budget now in full swing, and with Human Services (like the Health Department) one of the key areas that we focus on at the county, I thought this week would be an appropriate time to hear from the chair of the county Human Services Committee. So I introduce to you this week's guest blogger - Commissioner Brian McGrain:


Many thanks to Commissioner Schor for asking me to provide guest commentary on the actions of your Ingham County Commission this week. I am pleased to be serving in my first term on the Commission this year, and am currently seeking re-election. My District (District #3) is comprised of the north-eastern sections of Lansing and Lansing Townships (a reverse L-shaped district running approximately from the Lansing Center in the west along Michigan Avenue to Frandor and then up through Groesbeck to Eastwood Towne Center). I have lived in the Lansing area for 16 years, and have resided in my current east-side residence for over 8 years.

I am especially pleased to be chairing the Human Services Committee of the Commission this year. This Committee provides oversight to Ingham County’s social service activities, and includes activities of the Health Department, Community Mental Health, Human Services, the Mid-South Substance Abuse Commission, MSU Extension, and Veterans Affairs, among others. Annually, the Commission establishes areas of priority emphasis guiding the budget process. Among the long-term objectives supported by the Commission are: preventing and controlling disease; promoting accessible health care; and assisting in meeting basic needs. These objectives are met through support of the various departments reporting to the Human Services Committee.

The overall budget for this service area in 2011 will be over $73 million, of which over $17 million is provided by county general fund dollars. These figures represent about 40% of all county expenditures, and about 25% of the general fund overall. The large amount of financial support provided to care for our County’s residents illustrates that the intent to meet our objectives is of key importance to us. However, it is also important to note that three-quarters of the money spent on these services actually comes from other sources, such as through the state and federal government. Our high level of commitment to this arena allows us to draw down significant matching support for our community.

I must admit, going into our budget cycle for the 2011 calendar year, I was concerned that there were going to be significant cuts to what we could afford. I had heard that we would be facing anywhere from a $4 to $7 million budget shortfall. Our Controller presented us with a proposed budget in August that spelled out a predicted $6.4 million shortfall. Thankfully, our Controller also proposed a number of expenditure changes and budget reductions to help close the gap. Many of our departments were asked to tighten their belts and come up with anywhere from 5-10% in budget reductions. Our Health Department, for instance, decreased their budget by over $1 million. We are hopeful that these budget reductions (some of which also tie hand-in-hand to revenue enhancements) won’t detrimentally affect levels of service to our community. We are also exploring ways to deliver services differently and more affordably, such as by opening up our own group home for teenage boys.

The Human Services Committee on August 30 passed its portion of the 2011 budget with minimal fanfare. Our Finance Committee will meet later this month to take a look at all the budgets that have been passed (including those for Law Enforcement, Judiciary, and County Services) and to consider any changes that might need to be made. A completed budget will be before the entire Commission shortly thereafter for approval, well before January 1, 2011. If only the State were so efficient! (I suppose this is the situation to be had when one has a well-managed county staff and a leadership team made up overwhelmingly of Democrats.)

While we are rapidly closing in on a balanced budget for 2011, many of us on the Commission are already concerned about our 2012 budget. We expect another budget shortfall, but we are already taking steps to begin preparing for the difficult decisions we will face next year. As always, we encourage community residents to contact us with questions about our activities and also proposed solutions to the situations we may be encountering. While we know that we have to tighten our belt, we also pride ourselves at having been a County that has provided innovative programming to support our residents. If I may ever be of service to you, I invite you to contact me at

Best wishes to all for the remainder of 2010 and beyond,

Brian McGrain

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