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Wayne County Commission OKs consent agreement

Aug 13, 2015

Wayne County began building a new jail to deal with overcrowding in current aging jails - only to have to stop construction when the project went severely over budget.
Credit Wayne County

It will get harder from here.

Wayne County Commissioners have approved a consent agreement with the State of Michigan to deal with the county's fiscal emergency.

Of the 14 commissioners, only one, Jewel Ware, voted no.

The agreement means the county will be able to avoid the appointment of an emergency manager, if it can meet the terms.

The consent agreement will require the county to make budget cuts to fix a $52 million structural deficit, fix its crumbling and overcrowded jails, and slash retiree pensions. The county's pension plans are underfunded by more than $900 million.

It's unlikely the county will be able to salvage its retiree health care plans. Wayne County currently has only 1% set aside to pay $1.3 billion in health care benefits it has promised to retirees.

The agreement gives Executive Warren Evans some of the same powers as an emergency financial manager, including the ability to impose contracts on unions if bargaining fails.

Wayne County is the most populous county in the state, with more than 1.7 million residents.