Special committee established to examine county operations as budget challenges continue

The Wayne County Commission’s Special Committee on Efficiency & Accountability will be an important part of solving the county’s financial challenges, Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak said.

Woronchak (D-Dearborn) formed the committee after being elected earlier this month to a second term as chair of the commission. He said it will do a thorough review of county operations to determine if cost-effective improvements can be made and to find if some areas need additional funding to perform their basic functions.

Commissioner Richard LeBlanc (D-Westland) was named chairman of the committee. Commissioner Kevin McNamara (D-Belleville) will serve as vice chairman. Other members include Commissioners Ilona Varga (D-Lincoln Park), Shannon Price (R-Canton Township) and Martha Scott (D-Detroit).

Woronchak said the county needs to pay down an accumulated deficit of around $160 million, but “of even greater urgency is finding a way to stop adding to that debt” by stopping departments from spending more than is budgeted.

“Property tax revenues have fallen by tens of millions of dollars over the last several years as housing values fell across the county,” he said. “The drop was so dramatic over such a relatively short time that spending wasn’t, and maybe even couldn’t be curtailed quickly enough to keep pace.”

The Special Committee on Efficiency & Accountability is expected to help the Wayne County Commission in this year’s budget process with a closer look at spending and structure of all departments.

“We need to look in greater detail than ever at how county operations are run,” Woronchak said. “We can’t just rely on past practice or even on budget hearing testimony from department heads. We need to make the budget decisions with more precise information. That’s what this special committee will provide.

“Some within Wayne County don’t seem to fully realize how significantly tax revenues have fallen, and that there isn’t any money hidden away that is being held back from their budgets.

Woronchak said LeBlanc, who was elected to the commission in November after serving six years as a state representative, is a strong choice to chair the special committee, having experience from the House Appropriations Committee along with being able to look at the county’s finances with fresh eyes, rather than someone who has been in the system and is used to things being done a certain way.

In remarks after being re-elected chairman of the commission, Woronchak said that ongoing financial problems are the biggest challenge facing the county.