By Graham Sturgeon, staff writer
The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners approved the county’s 2016 budget during their Wednesday, Oct. 21, special meeting after failing to establish a quorum for their Oct. 15 meeting.
Board Chairman Hartmann Aue announced a balanced budget of $15,372,654 and the commissioners expect modest growth (1.3 percent) in 2016. The board voted 4-1 to approve the proposed budget, with Commissioner Les Schneider casting the lone “no” vote.
After years of making cuts in an effort to balance the county’s budget, the board reports that only the Emergency Management office is listed for a cut in the upcoming year, from $168,120 this year to $52,019 in 2016. Also, the board will transfer $560,808 from the county’s Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund in 2016, which is slightly more than in 2016.
Chairman Aue called the budget “exciting and responsible,” and the majority of the board agreed. Commissioner Schneider, however, did not agree with the budget as proposed, saying he was not allowed to give input in the process.
“Commissioner (Jeremy) Root and I were not included in any of the meetings or any of the briefings,” Schneider explained during the meeting. “How can we agree to something we don’t know much about? Our board chair is aware that I do have some valid questions and need some explanations on some of this budget.”
Commissioner Jeff Bartz and Chairman Aue, who combined to take the reins in the planning and formulation of the 2016 budget, each took issue with Schneider’s “no” vote.
“Commissioner Schneider, how can you vote against this budget when you are the vice chair of the Finance Committee?” Bartz asked. “Commissioner Root is the Chairman of the Finance Committee and you are the Vice Chairman and neither of you put not one ounce of energy or did one single thing to put this budget together. You were, in fact, the two in charge and were supposed to be having the meetings.”
Aue, commented on Schneider’s opinion of the situation by pointing out that the time for review had already passed.
“You’ve had this budget for a month to review, to find discrepancies, to find something you didn’t care for and I received nothing,” Aue said. “I find it odd that you don’t have time to look at this. You’ve had a month, and an extra week even, so that’s unfortunate. This has just passed, so there are still a couple months. Let me know if there is anything in this budget that you feel needs to be changed.”
Aue also called attention to the board’s attendance on a day when two commissioners, Jeremy Root and Gary Holzhausen, were absent for the second consecutive meeting.
“Thursday, Oct. 15, was the first time in 40 years that this board did not have a quorum,” Aue reported near the end of the Oct. 21 meeting. “As a county board, not only do we have a revenue problem, but sometimes we have a credibility problem. It’s on us to do the job we were elected to do. We signed up for this.”