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The Fall Of The Washtenaw County Budget

The Fall Of The Washtenaw County Budget image
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As the Roman Empire went, so might go the County of Washtenaw. Not too long ago (ten months to be exact), County Commissioners and Administrators as well as Department Heads were marching along conquering anything and everything that got in their way. They were spending money right and left without regard to what might happen later. Any one of Julius Caeser's descendents would have been proud. But everything caught up with the County ten months ago just like the Germanic and Slavic Tribes caught up with the Roman Empire A look back at this stage gives some insight into what has happened, where the County has been and where (or if) it is going anywhere now. Here's a look at the calendar of budget problems ever since that cold November day when Clerk Robert Harrison blew it open. Nov. 18-Harrison sends a letter to the Board of Commissioners informing them of an impending deficit of about $526,000 in 1971. Nov. 19 - Administrator K. Ross Childs (for the first of what was to be many times) denies there is a deficit and in fact maintains there will be a $150,000 surplus at the end of 1971. Nov. 29-The proposed $11 million dollar budget for 1972 is presented to the public for the first time. Dec. 3 - The proposed 1972 budget is balanced after much arguing as well as a transfer of more than $77,000 from the building fund. Dec. 7 - County Treasurer Sylvestor Leonard joins Harrison in saying the 1971 budget is overspent by $526,000. Dec. 14 - Leonard adjusts his warning to $400,000 on $500,000 in the hole and urges the establishment of a delinquent tax revolving fund. Dec. 16 - County Ways and Means Committee decides to establish a delinquent tax revolving fund but Childs and Leonard disagree over budget deficit. Childs says fund will make up deficit (which he admits exists for the first time) but Leonard says no way. Dec. 22 - 1972 budget is approved by the Board of Commissioners. Jan. 10 - Departmental unity is shown when the County Board of Auditors issued a report confirming a $526,071 deficit for 1971. Auditors, Treasurer, Clerk and Planning Department urge Commissioner action to stop deficit spending which is illegal for a County. Feb. 7 - An accountant for Icerman, Johnson and Hoffman a private auditing firm, also confirms the $526,000 deficit for 1971. Childs blames deficit on lack of projected revenue coming in. Feb. 10 - Childs terms deficit a "paper deficit" and claims he can account for some $519,000. Feb. 23 - Board of Auditors urge County to stop unnecessary spending until it is determined just how much money the 1972 budget is in the hole. Feb 24 - Freeze is put on all unnecessary County expenditures in anticipation of financial outlook findings. Feb. 28 - Harrison speaks up again saying the County will be one and a half million dollars in debt if spending remains at the level it was at then. And he claims the 1972 budget was nearly $1.7 million in the red when adopted. Mar. 7 - Commissioners vote to keep any department head from overspending line items. An additional $279,000 in revenues is added to the budget dropping the 1971 deficit to $247,000. (Please turn to page 9)