October 25, 2014

Executive Order 2009-22: How will it affect Arenac County?

By Tim Barnum|Staff writer
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MICHIGAN — On Tuesday, May 5, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed executive order 2009-22 (EO 22), which cuts nearly $350,000,000 out of the state’s fiscal year 2009 (ends Sept. 30) budget - $221,864,600 out of general fund spending and $127,472,600 out of special purposes funding, according to a copy of the order. Several state department satellites in Arenac County are expected to be affected by the order.

DHS employees to take mandatory days off

The Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) will see some of the most dramatic cuts in the order’s attempt to trim this fiscal year’s budget, with $92,429,200 in state funds reduced from the department’s budget.

“Locally, I don’t think you’ll see anything (different) in the services offered,” said Arenac and Bay County DHS Director Bernell Wiggins, adding services such as food assistance, utility payment assistance and other services won’t be hit by the cuts. “There’ll always be food assistance. The core programs, those budgets will remain the same.

“I think the governor’s made a conscious and bold effort to make sure the services will remain the same.”

Instead, the reductions will require that all DHS employees, of which there are 22 in Arenac County, take six furlough days, or unpaid days off.

“They’re temporary layoffs. There will be no wages paid,” Wiggins said. “That includes managers and our first line people, even myself. … Our statewide director, he too will be doing six furlough days.

“There won’t be any permanent layoffs here.”

Wiggins says he believes the furlough days will be done on an operational basis, with DHS offices statewide shutting down on certain days, as discerned by the state DHS.

He added that currently, the dates of the six furlough days are unknown.

Prison reducing transportation costs

The Standish Maximum Correctional Facility (SMF), recently rumored to be in danger of shutting down due to budget cuts, is being affected by EO 22, as it has been ordered to cut its transportation cost by $25,100 and employees will also be taking furlough days as part of a Michigan Department of Corrections (DOC) overall reduction of $10 million.

SMF Warden Tom Birkett says the transportation costs are being reduced with some assistance of a new medical contractor.

“The new contractor is Prison Health Services,” Birkett said. “They expect to do a lot more of tele-med type things and that will greatly reduce our transportation (costs).”

According to Birkett, the new contractor and its tele-med functions will cut down on the number of prisoners being transported away from SMF to inmate medical facilities.

Besides the switch in medical contractors, Birkett says changes have been made in monthly lease payments for the prison's vehicles to further assist SMF in trimming its expenditures.

When it comes to furlough days, Birkett says things are still being worked out in the Department of Corrections, but currently, he says, department employees are being told they will take six unpaid days off.

“The governor lists employees as essential and non-essential,” he said, adding however, that in SMF, all employees are considered essential, but some will still have to take furlough days. “Some employees can take furlough days and some will not.

“Once we get all the information through the governor’s office and filtered down to us, then we’ll have a better idea of when those furlough days will be.”

Birkett also says the DOC furlough days have the greatest budget reduction potential.

“Being the largest agency, with the most employees, the number of employees and the number of furlough days probably equals the greatest amount of savings.”

Iosco-Arenac District Library sees small cut, expects to be hit by state trooper reduction

EO 22 didn’t spare libraries that receive state aid, either.

“We’re looking at a four-percent cut for this current fiscal year,” said Iosco-Arenac District Library Director Stephanie Olson, adding state funds will be reduced by approximately $1,160. “They’ve (state) already cut us before this.

“I planned for it, to be honest. … It basically will not affect our budget.”

However, Olson says EO 22, even though it only cuts a small amount of state aid to the library, does have greater impact, since the order cuts 100 Michigan State Police troopers.

“That frightens us too, because we live off penal fines,” she said. “Cutting 100 police officers will cut our penal fines as well.”

According to Olson, the district library, which includes branches in Standish, AuGres, Omer and East Tawas, receives penal funds twice a year. In January, she says $63,305 was collected from Arenac County’s District Court and $76,910 was collected from Iosco County’s District Court.

As for the $1,160 reduction in state funds, Olson says library patrons won’t notice any differences due to the decrease.

“It should be invisible. … We won’t buy fewer computers or anything like that,” she said. “Maybe our offices will be cleaned for fewer hours.”

While Olson is more concerned about the state police reduction than she is with the cut in state aid, she doesn’t think the library is out of the woods yet.

“I don’t think this will be the last cut,” she said.

Central Michigan District Health Department services to suffer from EO 22

While some departments believe they can dodge allowing the cuts from EO 22 to affect services, it seems inevitable that the services offered by the Central Michigan District Health Department (CMDHD) will take a hit.

“What we found out today (May 11) is that for the CMDHD, in the local public health line-item, is that we’re looking at a $44,409 cut and that’s just for the fourth quarter, so that’s for July through September,” said CMDHD Health Officer Mary Kushion. “Some options on the table are the reduction of immunization clinics we provide, we may have increased waiting time for well and septic permits. … We may have slower times on communicable disease investigations, as well as sexually transmitted disease investigations.

“These are just possibilities,” she added. “There’s no doubt about it, it’s (EO 22) going to affect our service delivery.

“Now we got to look and see how we want to absorb that cut.”

Kushion added that the department could opt for furlough days, but added that even the unpaid days off would affect services of the CMDHD by slowing down service delivery.

According to Kushion, the cuts are coming at a very inconvenient time for clients of the health department.

“In this economy, with more and more people losing their jobs, more people are turning to the health departments,” she said.

The CMDHD serves Arenac, Clare, Gladwin, Isabella, Osceola and Roscommon counties.

Check back to see how the budget cuts will affect other Arenac County entities

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