Budget projections reason for cautious optimism
The Ingham County Board of Commissioners recently passed the budget for 2015. Projections for next year include a 5.8% rise in property tax revenue for a total increase of approximately $2.4 million over the preceding year’s revenue. This is big news because it will be the first time that property tax revenue has increased since 2008.
For county services to continue at the 2014 level, an additional $2.75 million has been allocated to the general fund from the county’s uncommitted fund balance. This is considered a prudent move because of the county’s healthy financial reserves, which are well over the recommended minimum. (In fact, Ingham County recently received word that Standard & Poor’s has rated it AAA+. This is the highest possible credit rating, indicating that that Ingham County has “extremely strong capacity to meet its financial obligations.”)
Also as part of the budget process, commissioners voted to approve $300,000 for increased staffing in the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office (both corrections and road patrol), Animal Control, and Veterans Affairs.
So things are looking up for Ingham County. We are in good shape financially, and we are slowly and strategically increasing our staffing – and service – levels.
Local veterans, volunteers make history
A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of participating in the Veterans History Project and taking part in an early Veterans Day tribute. The Michigan Association of Court Reporters, the Ingham County Circuit Court, and the Ingham Court Department of Veterans Affairs organized this event which put a veteran together with a volunteer interviewer and a court reporter. The resulting interview transcripts are sent to the American Folklife Center, part of the Library of Congress, where they will be preserved for future generations.
I interviewed a Navy veteran who served as a hospital corpsman aboard an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War. It was an experience that I won’t soon forget. Even those veterans who don’t fight in combat experience psychological and physical trauma that most civilians can’t begin to imagine. That’s why it is important to me that I do as much as I can as a part of county government to ensure that our veterans – young and old – receive the benefits and services that they need.
Land Bank helps local economy
The Ingham County Land Bank recently marked a milestone: its fortieth property sale of 2013. For years, the Land Bank has been transforming tax-foreclosed properties into new or rehabilitated homes or community gardens. Sure, these Land Bank projects make neighbors and new homeowners happy, but what about the economic impact? Can it be measured? And is it significant? The answers to those last two questions are yes and yes!
A study by the Land Policy Institute at Michigan State University shows that for every $1 invested by the Land Bank, $1.80 is returned to the economy. Since the Land Bank began in 2006, its total economic impact is $56.2 million, and 426 local jobs have been created. The study also shows that sale prices of houses within 500 feet of a Land Bank property are 5.2% higher than houses in comparable neighborhoods that do not include a Land Bank property.
Effectiveness of juvenile justice programs
More good news for our community: money invested in deterring juvenile offenders from committing repeat offenses appears to be paying off. At a recent Law & Courts Committee meeting, Michigan State University Professor Bill Davidson presented his findings on the many Ingham County initiatives funded by the countywide Juvenile Justice Millage. While current juvenile cases tend to be more serious, the overall number of juvenile cases has dropped dramatically: from 1,296 cases in 2004, before JJM-funded programming began, to 614 cases in 2012.
Prof. Davidson explained that fewer police officers could contribute to the lower number of juvenile cases. However, fewer police officers would not affect the recidivism rates.
Ingham County’s juvenile recidivism rate is 16.3% lower than what would be expected with standard probation. More impressive is that Ingham County’s rate is 8.3% lower than what would be achieved by merely following “best practices” for treating juvenile offenders.
The JJM was first passed in 2003, and county voters have renewed it three times.
Budget process: good news, but proceed with caution
The budget process for 2014 has gone smoothly. With few exceptions, most county departments will see a continuation of the previous year’s budget. This means no cuts in services or in staff – good news for county residents. The projected deficit (created primarily by decreased property tax revenue) will be made up using approximately $3.5 million from the county’s reserves.
Property values appear to have stabilized – that is, most properties in Ingham County are no longer losing value. Consequently, property tax revenue is no longer dropping. But property values will rebound about two years before the same rebound is seen in property tax revenue. So while the worst of the “Great Recession” may be over, we aren’t out of the woods quite yet.
Paid for by
Elect Kara Hope
1891 Maple Street
Holt MI 48842
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here belong to Kara Hope. They should not be construed as representing the official or unofficial position of the Ingham County Board of Commissioners or any county department or employee. No taxpayer funds are spent on this website.
Paid for by Kara Hope for State Representative
P.O. Box 21002
Lansing, Michigan 48909
P.O. Box 21002
Lansing, Michigan 48909