Well, this will most definitely be my final blog post of the year. Well, sort of. It isn’t my blog post…it is a blog post from Debbie DeLeon, the outgoing Chair of the Ingham County Board of Commissioners. A little background – Commissioner DeLeon (serving North Lansing) first became Board chair in 2009. She faced probably the most serious budget deficits as Board chair that anyone had faced in many, many years (Commissioner Grebner will probably know the last time it was this bad!). She did a great job steering the direction of the County and the Board of Commissioners in 2009. As a reward for her hard work and stress, we elected her Chair once again (note that it is rare for a Board Chair to receive back-to-back terms). Again 2010 was a very tough year. We had many reforms and big budget problems. And again, Chair DeLeon was great. She pushed the Commissioners and staff into facing and making tough decisions. The final blog of the year goes to Commissioner DeLeon. Below is her final statement that she gave to the Board in 2010. Thanks, Deb, for all your hard work for Ingham County.
The Board of Commissioners will have our first meeting of 2011 on January 3rd for swearing in and leadership elections. For now, I wish everyone happy holidays! Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Festivus (sorry if I missed anyone)…and have a great New Year!
Well, this is the final meeting of the year and my final meeting as board chair. It has been a distinct honor and a privilege for me to serve my colleagues and this county as chair for the last two years.
Personally, it is also a special mark of distinction being the first American Indian not only to serve as a Commissioner, but the first native to serve as the Board Chair.
It is my hope that my time as chair has served my colleagues, my constituents, county residents and my community well and with honor.
I sincerely appreciate the confidence, support, assistance, collaboration, and quite an education in the process that I have received from everyone…my colleagues, our staff, especially Becky Bennett our board coordinator—and just in case anyone didn’t know…she is the one who keeps us all inline!—our controller Mary Lannoye, our deputy controller John Neilson, and our county attorney Peter Cohl, just to name a few, but not to minimize anyone else’s importance on this very long list such as my vice chair Victor Celentino and committee chairs, Dale Copedge, Mark Grebner, Brian McGrain, Deb Nolan and Dianne Holman. And, of course the list was different for the previous year---my 2009 leadership team included vice-chair Dale Copedge with committee chairs Victor Celentino, Mark Grebner, Todd Tennis, Rebecca Bahar-Cook and Andy Schor.
Ingham County has certainly seen some unprecedented times in recent years with all the budget shortfalls growing with each passing year making it harder and harder to balance a budget without enduring a painful process.
We have seen the general fund—that’s our discretionary dollars—shrink by more than $20m in the last 4 years due to revenue losses and declining property taxes. We know these cuts are being felt across the board to one degree or another. However, even in light of $5.7m reduction in the 2010 budget, we have all worked very hard to find ways to minimize the impact on direct services and to void layoffs by eliminating vacant positions first wherever possible…and that is something we should all be proud of in these difficult times.
One of the reasons for Ingham County’s accomplishments in this area is because of the great working relationship we have between our board, our management and our unions. This year, employees are taking 3 furlough days which will be taken during the Christmas holiday closing non-mandated county offices December 27, 28 & 29th. We are, indeed, all in this together and the only way to survive it, is together! A special thank you to all for your good work and sharing in the pain.
We have also seen the transition of three controllers in the past 4 years or so. And i worked through each of them in one capacity or another, but the last one as chair. Today, in case you didn’t know it—for the first time in the history of this county, we have sort of a dream team having an all female county leadership team which includes:
• Controller Mary Lannoye
• Budget director Teri Morton
• Finance director Jill Rhode
• Board coordinator Becky Bennett
• And of course myself as chair
Sorry guys, i just had to point this history in the making event out! Who knows, with this is an absolute first for the county, it may never happen again!!
Anyway, one of the things that i have tried to push as chair has been to get departments heads as well as elected countywides and judges to understand the depth of the budget shortfalls and how we were not seeing any improvement indicators for the near future…urging them to look at restructuring their management teams to eliminate management positions. If I count correctly, only 3 have done this to date and I want to give them special recognition for stepping up and taking a leadership role. Clerk Mike Bryanton was the first to take this initiative. Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings and health administrator Dr. Dean Sienko have also accomplished this for a combined total budget savings of nearly $300k! It all adds up…a special thank you to them for their courage and leadership.
Some of the more significant or notable issues that came before the board in 2010 were not only controversial but also ground breaking kind of issues:
County services highlights
• Authorized a reorganization within the Ingham county clerk’s office—eliminated 1 deputy and converted 1 chief deputy to a supervisor level—increasing efficiencies and an annual savings of more than $70k.
• Approved the first beer tent at the fair—which worked out as expected without any problems;
• Approved the first project labor agreement – the rhino project at the zoo
• Amended the local purchasing preference policy to provide an opportunity to increase more local vendor participation
• Transferred Rayner Park to the city of mason in an effort to keep the park open
Law enforcement highlights
• Eliminated primary law enforcement services for rural townships ultimately transferring responsibility to each of those jurisdictions
• Authorized the closing of a post at the jail
• Authorized the building authority to proceed with the Ingham county consolidated 911 dispatch center and as a project labor agreement. This particular issue gives me some personal pride in that as chair of the law enforcement committee in 2005, i pushed to initiate the first meeting between the county and the cities of Lansing and East Lansing that started us down this road. And here were are 5 years later finally authorizing the construction of the $6.4m (building and equipment costs combined) facility. We hit some bumpy roads along the way, but thanks to the voters of ingham county for their ongoing support of the 911 millage, this consolidation will ultimately provide a cost savings and be a more efficient operation.
• Authorized entering into an intergovernmental cost sharing agreement with Eaton, Clinton and Livingston counties for a new 911 phone system that would develop virtual backup capabilities for the 911 system – another cost saving measure
• Authorized an imaging project resulting in a reorganization within the prosecutor’s office that eliminated vacant positions no longer needed when the office went paperless. Resulting in a savings of $190k. Because of the success in the prosecutor’s office, more county offices are looking at going paperless.
Human services highlights
• Authorized a realignment of the health department programs and administrative structure—eliminated a deputy position going from 3 divisions to 2 divisions for a total cost reduction of $88k.
• Expansion of the health clinics continues due to the fqhc—federally qualified health care center—status thanks to our health department staff who works so diligently to apply for any and all federal dollars available.
• Authorized an agreement, tonight actually, with sparrow hospital for medical examiner services that will keep all autopsies in Ingham county.
• Authorized expansion of an additional class (10 more students) to the very successful Ingham academy high school program. Graduation of our first class took place this year, which was quite moving and impressive. Programs like this happen because of the juvenile justice millage and the ability to match those funds with state dollars.
• Authorized a contract with luminosity solutions to review certain aspects of the Ingham county criminal justice system & provide recommendations to responsibly manage the reduced jail population while maintaining public safety and the integrity of the judicial process in preparation for the closing of post 3 (64 bed reduction).
• Requested the JUCC—jail utilization coordinating committee—to review the luminosity report entitled “jail & justice system assessment” & forward their recommended strategies to adopt to the board.
• Adopted JUCC recommendations for implementation, which were
1. Add 1 FTE pre-trial investigator position;
2. Increase electronic monitoring—a grant was also obtained to offset costs for the indigent, as the cost is paid by the person monitored.
• Of course, we all know that all resolutions dealing with money go through the finance committee, as well...and, sometimes they actually get to tweak a resolution or two before it goes to the full board.
• This committee’s most difficult issue comes with the passing of a balanced budget -- deciding which priorities on the z-list from all the other committees survive the process or face getting cut.
Most of the work throughout the year has focused around the budget in one way or another...this speaks volumes in regards to the size of the budget problems this county has been and will continue to face…at least until 2014 is what is currently being projected. 2012 is anticipated to be worse than anything we have seen to date—especially if the legislature does anything negative to revenue sharing. Given the “fun” we have had with the budget the last two years, I am more than happy to take a break and looking forward to it!!
In closing, thank you, again, to everyone and anyone who helped me in any way during my tenure as board chair. It has really been very much appreciated. It has indeed been an honor and i have enjoyed this awesome opportunity.
And, thank you for your indulgence in allowing me this moment to share some of the highlights of this past year only…and now for the highlights of 2009!!!
Just kidding…one last word—best wishes to the incoming 2011 chair. And best wishes to everyone for a safe and happy holiday season.