Friday, May 4, 2012

Land Bank Additional $ Requested, Dentist Hired, Countywide Retirement Benefits, Campaign Update

This week was busy again, although we did not consider as many controverial issues during our committee meetings this week. In County Services, the controversial issue considered was the resolution to provide the Ingham County Land Bank with capacity building funding. The Land Bank has grow to be a significant economic development tool in Ingham County and is the major public responder to the plight of property thrown into tax foreclosure. The incidence of tax foreclosure caused by lingering economic turmoil and hardship through 2014 is expected to be significant. As such, the need exists for capacity at the Land Bank to deal with the growing inventory of property and the housing initiatives through HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis. There have been increased incidences of tax delinquency, forfeiture and foreclosure which has increased the responsibilities placed upon the Land Bank. This, though, has increased the revenue to the County Treasurer’s Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund for tax years through 2014. The Land Bank has significant physical assets with value to unlock and redeploy in the future, but faces property management and disposition challenges currently. They requested annual funding of $400,000 to the Ingham County Land Bank from the Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund for tax years 2009 through 2011. There was a good discussion of the resources of the Land Bank, including the original credit line that created the $5 million revolving fund as well as the Neighborhood Stabilization Fund dollars from the federal government. It was explained that NSP funding proceeds are HUD money and go back to MSHDA. The County receives a small percentage fee, but receives no revenues from these properties and cannot pay back the line of credit with this money or use it for more redevelopment. County Treasurer Schertzing correctly pointed out that we need a highly capable land bank authority, that the county would have a lot more blighted structures without a the land bank, and that inventory has increased along with the needs. The Ingham Land Bank received the Urban Land Bank of the Year Award last year. He also pointed out that property is usually sold to private individuals. If the property is not in a Brownfield, 50% of the taxes go to the land bank and 50% goes to the taxing entities for 5 years. After that, 100% goes to the tax entities. If in a Brownfield, then all the additional revenues go to that Brownfield. The County Controller stated concerns with the appropriation, though, because the County relies on this fund to close budget gaps at the end of the year. The conversation halted, though, when it was realized that the request is not just for $400,000, but actually for $400,000 per year for 3 years equaling $1.2 million from this fund. At that point, the Treasurer and Controller agreed that they would sit down and chat, and the resolution would come back next meeting. The second resolution that drew some concern was the resolution to hire a dentist at Step 5 (the highest level). The Health Department said that the position had been vacant since 2010. The applicant apparently has 29 years experience in dentistry, and has served pediatric and adult services. This dentist has also worked in Army reserves, state corrections, and private practice. The Health Department reiterated, as the have in the past. that dental positions at Ingham County are way below market value, both in private practice and other health facilities. Commissioner Grebner asked about study that the HR director had promised in the past which will ensure that we have the right levels of pay. Our HR director indicated that he has begun a preliminary study, but that there is difficulty in getting the numbers back. It was also pointed out that this job has been open for a while and we haven’t been able to fill it. The Health Department said that this needs to be a Step 5 hire because there is a demand, whereas other positions don’t have the increased demand I asked several questions about why we don't recruit at colleges and have dentists with less experience but itching to make their mark. These would cost less. I was told that a recent college graduate is still making $130,000 out of college, and that is more than we pay. In order for us to get close to that, we have to offer Step 5 right out of school because the market demands it. There were also questions as to why we can't hire dental hygienists to cover this. We were told that the dentists need to do most of the work because it is dentistry and not cleanings, and that the dentists can bill the federal government for more complicated work and bring in higher revenue at higher rate. These positions are apparently funded by an access point grant and we receive $300,000 in billable revenue for each position. Thus, not offering Step 5 and losing the applicant will lose the county about $300,000 in revenue in a year, and will result in 1000 less patients in a year (3,000 visits). Each day the dentist position goes unfilled results in a loss of services to 10 to 15 dental patients. As a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), the Community Health Centers are required to provide primary health services related to family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, or gynecology. This includes preventive health services, one of which is preventive dental services. The ICHD provides preventive, restorative and emergency dental services as part of its additional health services. As an FQHC, the ICHD can benefit from enhanced reimbursement as long as it adheres to certain program requirements. One requirement is that it must maintain a core staff as necessary to carry out all required primary, preventive, enabling health services and additional health services as appropriate and necessary, either directly or through established arrangements and referrals. Staff must be appropriately credentialed and licensed. In order to maintain this core staff to carry out these preventive, restorative and emergency dental services, the ICHD needs to fill this vacant dentist position. Filling this dentist position will allow the ICHD to maintain high quality dental services for its patients and to maintain revenue projections resulting from these dental services. Competitively recruiting a dentist today. The Step 5 salary is $12,000 less than the dentist earned while working with the State of Michigan. Although many commissioners had concerns with bringing in a dentist at step 5, especially when we can't do this for other employees. We also had a good discussion about changing the county retirement plan. Currently, it provides a huge boost when someone goes from one elected position to another, especially when going from a Commissioner position to a Countywide elected position. They receive a retirement formula based on the top pay and the top contribution percentage. Commissioner Grebner raised that he wants to change this to a hybrid defined benefit/defined contribution plan. We expect to have a resolution and further discussion before us soon. On the Schor for State Representative campaign front, we made an announcement that the Amalgamated Transit Union has endorsed my campaign. We will also be making several more major announcements in the coming weeks, along with announcing walk schedules for volunteers and new fundraising opportunities. It is very busy, but everything is going tremendously well. Voter contact continues to go well and momentum builds. We are 11 days from filing deadline. So far, there are 4 candidates in the Democratic primary (I am one of them, of course) and 2 candidates in the Republican primary. I will report more on this when make the next round of announcements, and I will try to update more in the next Schor Blog. Thanks, everyone, for all your support and don't forget to check out!

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