Oakland County Delivers $893M Budget Recommendation, Property Taxes May be Lowered

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L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County executive, today delivered his three-year, balanced budget recommendation with a five-year outlook to the Board of Commissioners. The total budget recommendation is about $893.3 million, and the county may lower property taxes to 4 mills in 2020, when it is projected that the Headlee rollback calculation will dip below the county’s current rate of 4.04 mills.

“If I had to identify the primary factor responsible for our financial management successes, it would be our committed adherence to long-range planning and budgeting practices,” says Patterson. “It is forward planning coupled with action that separates Oakland County from other governments around the country, which is why we are recognized by Moody’s Investors Service and Standard and Poor’s as the very best at maintaining fiscal stability.”

One item that continues to create future uncertainty for Oakland County’s budget is indigent defense mandated by the State of Michigan, which requires local governments to share the financial burden, Patterson says.

On June 12, the Michigan Legislature approved House Bill 5985 which increases the ongoing share cost calculation imposed on local government. The bill mandates that the local share amount for indigent defense will increase every year by the rate of inflation or 3 percent, whichever is less, and requires local governments to give Michigan 20 percent of collections from “partially” indigent defendants.

Redefining local share is a violation of unfunded mandate limitations in the Headlee Amendment of the Michigan Constitution, according to Oakland County.

If the county is ultimately required to establish and staff a public defender office, preliminary estimates are that the operating expenses for Oakland County taxpayers could top $20 million a year. In addition, there would be one-time construction and start-up costs for taxpayers that may exceed $30 million.

Patterson’s budget proposes a general salary increase of 2 percent for fiscal year 2019. The budget will also continue to invest in government campus infrastructure improvements that include technology enhancements, security upgrades, and building renovations. General fund budgets for fiscal years 2019, 2020, and 2021 are about $465.5 million, $466.4 million, and $475.4 million, respectively. The total budgets, respectively, for 2020 and 2021 are $893.6 million and $901.5 million.

Patterson’s full budget recommendation is available here.

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