From Oakland County Commissioner John Scott (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield):
In early 2009, I was approached by several community and business leaders in Waterford Township asking me to run for Waterford Township supervisor in 2012.
These leaders are very concerned about the financial decline in Waterford Township government. They feel my experience as an Oakland County commissioner makes me the perfect candidate to fix the financial problems facing Waterford Township now and into the future.
Bringing the Oakland County business model to Waterford is the only way to fix these financial problems.
I have been an Oakland County commissioner since 2003. In those 9-plus years, I have seen what it takes to make Oakland County the best-run county in the country.
Oakland County is essentially debt free. Our legacy costs — pension and retiree health care — are paid.
Oakland County has a $201 million fund balance surplus this year. This surplus is there to cover anticipated revenue shortages in future years.
Let’s face it, folks. Oakland County has done the right things over the years to avoid the problems facing Waterford Township.
By 2014, Waterford Township could be on the path to be in the same great financial condition as Oakland County as long as they have the right leadership.
One person cannot do it alone. It will take the entire township board — supervisor, clerk, treasurer, and trustees — to make this work. They will have to buy into the Oakland County business model to right the ship.
Waterford Township needs to develop policies and procedures to ensure Waterford Township government has the fiscal stability to maintain quality services, regardless of the local economic composition. They need to fund ongoing operations with recurring revenues, rather than through the arbitrary use of fund balance or issuance of debt.
Long-term financial planning is needed to allow the township to reduce expenditures and create surpluses to cover revenue shortages in future years. The township needs to identify opportunities for increased efficiencies and continuous efforts to reduce the waste that is embedded in the township’s culture at all organizational levels. Prudent discipline ensures that structural budget difficulties do not develop.
I have met with people who currently work for Waterford and people who have left Waterford employment. These are people who know the actual financial condition of the township. They all told me the same thing: Declining property values and ever escalating legacy costs are taking a major toll on the township’s budget.
Property values are still declining in Waterford. Taxable value in 2012 is going to be down approximately 13 percent. That’s 13 percent less money to run the township. The decline in property values in 2013 is projected to be around 5 to 7 percent.
At the same time the legacy costs are increasing significantly. Retiree health care costs alone will increase 10-plus this year.
Folks, we can save the township, but it is going to be very difficult.
Nobody likes change. I know I don’t like change, especially when it hits me in the pocket book. In the 9-plus years I have been a commissioner, I have witnessed a lot of change at the county. County employees have faced two pay cuts, increased co-pays for health care, and the elimination of retiree health care for new employees. County retirees have seen their co-pays for health care and prescriptions increase. In the private sector, people have experienced even more drastic reductions and job loss. Most employees in the private sector do not have pensions and retiree health care.
The taxpayers have taken significant cuts in wages and benefits. It is not right for public sector employees to have great pensions and retiree health care when those taxpayers paying the bill have given up those luxuries a long time ago.
Whoever leads Waterford in the future will need to make the necessary changes to ensure the fiscal viability into the future.
The question I am constantly being asked is, am I going to run for Waterford Township supervisor?
The answer depends on what the Michigan Supreme Court decides regarding the commission districts for Oakland County.
Currently, the commission districts adopted by the Apportionment Commission have 25 districts.
To save Oakland County money, the Michigan Legislature passed, and the governor signed, legislation that would reduce the number of commission districts in Oakland County from 25 to 21.
This legislation is being challenged in the courts and is on its way to the Michigan Supreme Court.
If the Supreme Court upholds the legislation reducing the commission to 21 districts, I plan to run for Waterford Township supervisor.
If the Supreme Court rules against the legislation, I have no choice but to run for re-election to the Oakland County Board of Commissioners. I know I can win the new 5th District. That district consists of four precincts in Pontiac and 14 precincts in Waterford. For the reasons stated above, it is imperative we maintain the Republican majority on the Board of Commissioners. Oakland County is the best run county in the country because of Republican leadership.
I have filed to run for re-election to the Oakland County Board of Commissioners.
At the same time, I have pulled nominating petitions for Waterford Township supervisor and am in the process of collecting signatures.
Once the Supreme Court hands down its decision, I will know which office I am running for in 2012.
Let’s hope they make their decision sooner rather than later.