Questionnaire Written for County Commission Special Projects Requests – The Oakland Press
Later this year, County Commissioner Gwen Markham plans to ask the county to sponsor a garden project in the Pontiac.
The Novi Democrat estimates it will cost $10,000 to install a butterfly and bee-friendly garden on the grounds of Governor Wisner’s mansion. She would like to see a similar garden planted elsewhere in the Pontiac and she is coordinating her ideas with Commissioner Angela Powell, D-Pontiac.
The money would come from $1.3 million from the Commissioners’ Special Projects Fund for this fiscal year. The Special Projects Fund is an annual budget line item, a literal drop in the total amount of money set aside for fiscal year 2022: $971,238,971, but it’s one way to look at how commissioners work to manage the taxpayers’ money.
Special projects money allows commissioners to sponsor a community event or fund a project not already covered elsewhere in the budget, according to commissioner Mike Spisz, R-Oxford.
“When you’re budgeting, you don’t always know everything that’s going to happen,” he said.
Markham said the money can be used for smaller projects that individual commissioners typically come up with to promote or improve their respective communities.
Some projects are countywide, like the 2018 initiative to help schools install touchless water filling stations, which got just over $509,000 from the special projects fund.
The program was so popular that commissioners approved another round of school applications late last year, allocating $300,000 from the fund.
Before asking the county to pay for the garden project, Markham, who chairs the council’s finance committee, must find community partners and answer a series of questions drafted by commissioners intended to set consistent standards for the assessment. special project requests.
KEY QUESTIONS FOR SPECIAL PROJECT REQUESTS
- Who will benefit from the project and how?
- What is the expected duration of the project?
- Will the project/cost fall within one or more budget cycles?
- Does this project come under the jurisdiction of the Council of Commissioners?
- Will you be involved in this project? How? ‘Or’ What?
- What is the proposed timeline for this project (start/completion)?
Using her garden example, she should show an estimated cost, explain the purpose of the project; share start and end dates; explain whether this is a one-time or multi-year request. It should also explain how the project benefits the public, what advantages for the community as well as what its personal involvement will be.
Markham helped draft the questionnaire, which is not yet an official document, but said she could not take full credit for it.
So far this year, commissioners have approved three projects: $250,000 for an invasive moth prevention program; $15,000 to sponsor an international petanque tournament in Lake Orion; and $42,124 to combat human trafficking.
Sponsorship of the tournament, which attracts teams from nearly two dozen countries, is what Markham called “a nice little project”.
She said the county has contributed to the annual event for years. Other projects, like the 2020 agreement for a native plant initiative with the county’s parks and recreation department, were literally seed money. The native plants have proven so popular that parks and recreation officials have expanded it, making it part of their regular budget, Markham said.
Commission requests to support events or projects go through a vetting process by county employees. Next, the wording of a committee resolution is drafted.
“We want these things to be as bipartisan as possible,” Markham said.
Resolutions usually get the full support of both parties because they’ve been discussed at committee meetings and, she said, “because they’re good projects.” They help people, that’s what we try to do.
Almost all requests for money involve partnerships, she said, whether they are organizations that also give grants or voluntary organizations that provide people to work on the projects.
For example, she said, commissioners agreed to purchase 20,000 oak saplings to give to residents as part of the county’s 2020 bicentennial celebration. The pandemic changed the project and county officials reduced the seedling order to 5,000 but found partners to ensure that people who wanted a seedling could get one.
Markham said the trees were more than a token celebration of the anniversary, they were part of an effort to get more native plants to flourish in the community.
By identifying the reasons for requesting funds for special projects, commissioners can assess the success of the spending and whether they wish to spend money on similar projects in the future.
“I am a data person and an engineer by training. I like documentation and standardization,” Markham said. “These projects always happened, because there was always money available.”
But clear cost-benefit data and other details, she said, will help show the opportunities. While reviewing her garden ideas, she talked about creating a garden design and making presentations to potential partners, such as garden clubs and landscaping specialists from Oakland University, which will provide the best value for the money spent.
Markham said not all commissioners agree on the current structure for requests for funds for special projects, but that there is a process “allowing us to route these requests through a system”, which the money either goes to sponsor an event like South Lyon’s Kitefest or a project like contactless. water stations.
Spisz said he’s not opposed to using the form, but it’s a new idea, and veteran commissioners will have to adapt to the new process.
Special projects money is tracked by the county. Spisz and Markham said commissioners generally don’t spend all the money for special projects, and what isn’t spent stays in the fund. In the event of simultaneous submission of several requests for funding, the questionnaire will help the commissioners to evaluate and prioritize expenditure.
“We want to support what our communities are doing and we want to be flexible in doing that,” Markham said. “It’s not just about having Commissioner X of District Y say, ‘Hey, just give me some money. We need to know it’s a real thing.
Later this year, Markham said she expects commissioners to vote on a resolution to make the questionnaire a formal process. This will give residents better insight into how the money is being used and a way for commissioners to measure how much money is being spent.