Sharing ideas on budget challenges

More than 200 public officials from throughout Michigan attended Oakland County’s Budget Symposium II on Monday, Nov. 8.

Hosted by County Executive L. Brooks Patterson at the Oakland Schools building in Waterford, the symposium served as an opportunity for county officials and others to share their “best practices” in order to help others around the region facing budget challenges.

“We are recognized for some of the best budgeting practices and fiscal policies of governments in the state of Michigan, if not America,” Patterson said. “These practices, we hope, will start to bleed off into some of our local communities.”

Those practices and policies have earned Oakland County a bond rating of AAA from Wall Street every year since 1998.

Moody’s Investors Service wrote, “Everything about them [Oakland County] is stellar: From my perspective, they are not just better than most counties, they are
better than all.”

In order to maintain its AAA bond rating, Oakland County’s Budget Task Force forecasts economic and tax revenue issues that will impact the county’s three-year budget well into the future.  The county currently is looking to 2016 and beyond.

“Our long-range outlook can spot a problem a couple years down the road, and allows us to make adjustments now to minimize its impact on the budget,” Patterson said.

Deputy County Executive Robert Daddow’s presentation “The Perfect Storm,” which takes a sobering look at both Michigan’s economy and the fiscal and budgetary concerns of both state and local governments in the years to come, was among the first sessions.

“The depth of the problem is far deeper than most people realize,” Daddow said. “At both the state and local level, the money quite simply isn’t there for revenue sharing, education, police and fire, just to name a few.

Other sessions included:

• Technology Innovation in Tough Economic Times (using technological innovation to change the business process of government).

• Labor Relations – Oakland County’s Approach to Collective Bargaining (using pattern bargaining approach, and how it and other strategies help the county to achieve salary/benefit decreases).

• Creating a Multi-Year Budget Document (using current resources).

• Sustainability Concerns for Other Post Employment Benefit (OPEB) Obligations (services provided by governments are in danger of being “crowded out” by OPEB legacy costs such as retiree health care. This session discussed the magnitude of the problem and the need for advance planning in order to honor long-term OPEB commitments.)

• Doing More with More (emphasis on more creativity, more flexibility, more collaboration and consolidation of services all leading to more value).

• Budget Benefits from Being Green (current energy costs and trends; new interactive energy use website; structure of the County’s Green Team and its success; and energy management procedures that have resulted in savings of more than $4 million).

• Procurement Saving Strategies (overview of the money and time saving strategies the Oakland County Purchasing Division has implemented that resulted in savings of more than $1 million).

•    Property Tax Values (current property values within Oakland County impacting the 2011 assessments, along with the key market indicators that Oakland Equalization uses to accurately estimate taxable values for future years’ budgeting purposes).

Closing out the symposium, Deputy County Executive Gerald Poisson summarized, “Pardon me for borrowing a phrase by Nike, ‘Just do it.’ Be leaders, take action, and live within your means.”

All of the information presented at the Oakland County’s Budget Symposium II is available online at


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