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of Clare County

County Closes Out Fiscal Year

As Living Document, Amendments to FY2022 Budget Likely, Inevitable

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HARRISON – Compared to many Clare County Board of Commissioners meetings, the Sept. 30 special meeting was short and sweet. Again, commissioners were absent due to job changes and other obligations. Prior to the start of the meeting, mention was made of a previous comment by one of those absent commissioners which had scorned commissioner absences, as the BOC meetings schedule was known prior to running for office. Fortunately, just at 9 a.m., a fourth commissioner arrived to constitute a quorum consisting of Dale Majewski, Sandra Bristol, Bronwyn Asplund and Rick Fancon.

There was a hearing timeframe for the county’s general appropriation for the coming fiscal year, as well as some confusion regarding the contract agreement for the Indigent Defense Managed Assigned Counsel Administrator. The amendment to “Standard 5: Independence from the Judiciary” was detailed by administrator Karen Moore. Despite that detailing, commissioner Bronwyn Asplund refused to vote on the IDMAC agreement, because she had not seen the original existing contract, the adoption of which predated her election to the BOC. The board recessed for 15 minutes, allowing county administrator Tracy Byard to retrieve, print and provide documents for commissioners’ review.

When the meeting resumed, Asplund indicated she was fully satisfied with the information provided and the board pressed on with its scheduled actions, which included motions to:

-Adopt Resolution No. 21-15, a resolution approving and adopting the County General Appropriation Act for Fiscal Year 2022.

-Adopt Resolution No. 21-14 establishing Fiscal Year 2022 compensation.

-Approve the first amendment to the independent contract agreement for the Indigent Defense Managed Assigned Counsel Administrator and allow Chair to sign.

-Approve the Two Seven Oh Inc. Reimbursement Grant Agreement in the amount of $5,000 for the spay and neuter program with the Clare County Animal Shelter and allow Chair to sign.

-Approve the contract with Region VII Area Agency on Aging for senior programming and allow Chair to sign.

-Approve budget adjustments Nos. 21-195, 21-196, 21-197, 21-199, 21-200, 21-203, 21-207, 21-208, 21-212, 21-215, 21-217, 21-219, 21-220, 21-223 and 21-225 in the amounts of $26,985.45; $174,325.31; $42,312.46; $27,571; $127,943; $6,209.92; $473,175.59; $913,048.73; $27,612; $1,700; $12,181.75; $138,715; $2,432; $50,650 and $4,106.

Friend of the Court Jamie Raymond returned for the Sept. 30 meeting but said that, having experienced a death in her family, she was unable to present the information on possible expense/revenue scenarios which she had planned to provide. When she questioned how the BOC could approve the budget without addressing expenses and revenues specific to her office, board chair Dale Majewski explained that by law the budget had to be approved that day. The BOC moved to approve the FY2022 budget with an awareness that it would likely need to be amended.

In Public Comment, prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis spoke of House Bills 4670, 4671 and 4672 before the legislature which would be voted on that morning and urged commissioners to reach out to their legislators in opposition to the bills. Ambrozaitis said that Michigan’s Truth in Sentencing which had been fought for prior to her tenure, means that when victims of crime come in to hear a defendant’s sentence in circuit court, they are assured that person is going to prison for the minimum time, i.e., a sentence of five to10 years means a minimum of five years will be served, and the perpetrator will not become eligible for parole prior to serving those five years.

“When we bargained for Truth in Sentencing, when it went into effect previously, we agreed that we were lowering guidelines to take into account programming and other things that would be available to these individuals while they’re in prison,” she said. “And so, based on the programming, the lowering of the guidelines initially all took into account that minimum. That gives victims peace of mind.”

Ambrozaitis explained that an organization has been advocating heavily to bring back Good Time to prisoners, and calling that time Productivity Credits. This would allow earning up to 20% off of the individual’s prison time, making the minimum no longer truly the minimum sentence.

“This is not good for crime victims and the state of Michigan,” she said. “The Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the [Michigan] Sheriffs’ Association, victim advocacy organizations have all stood up and stood firm, and have been asking everybody to say ‘No’ on this, because it is not good.”

She then provided commissioners an email address (esleeper@house.mi,gov) where commissioners could make known their opposition to legislators.

The BOC also scheduled a special labor relations meeting for 10 a.m. Oct. 4 with the intent to approve employee union Units I and II union contracts.

Before closing the meeting, Majewski made comment regarding the county’s current budgeting process.

“I know we’re looking at, in the future, possibly changing it up and performing a budget a different way – which I think is going to be welcomed,” he said. “I know in this process there were some added costs to certain departments that we haven’t done before: Senior Services, Sheriff’s Department, administrative costs [departments’ indirect expenses charged by the county, i.e., County Building office space, utility cost, etc.]. And we pulled those monies out to help balance the budget.”

He then asked Byard if including those indirect expenses was being done across the board with every department, such as MSU Extension. She said MSU Extension was charged a fee, as well, and when asked about the Clare Conservation District, Byard said the CCD was not charged for indirect cost, based on the fact the county gives it a $3,000 appropriation.

“I think if we’re going to do it, we need to be consistent with how we do it, an in every department,” Majewski said.

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