The finance department didn't turn in estimates, because, it said, its staff has already shrunk from thirty-one in 2000 to sixteen now. Any further cuts, it warned, would result in "grave consequences" to county government and the public.
The wild card is whether the county's employee unions will take pay cuts. "We are asking unions to make concessions, and those negotiations are absolutely critical," says commissioner Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor). "Seventy percent of our budget is employee compensation, and if they're willing to make concessions, it'll make it easier to balance the budget without having deep cuts."
Another unknown is the board's position. Some take the ascension of Sizemore, an Ypsilanti Township Democrat, as a sign the balance of power has shifted from Ann Arbor to the outlying townships. That could mean less support for the social programs Ann Arbor favors.
The commissioners will have till the end of the year to finalize the cuts. Commissioner Leah Gunn, an Ann Arbor Democrat, predicts "a lot of horse trading" before then.
[Originally published in June, 2009.]