County preps for increased jail costs

ESCANABA — Delta County’s 2017-18 fiscal year will begin Oct. 1. In preparation, Delta County Administrator Ryan Bergman gave a presentation on the county’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year to members of the Delta County Board of Commissioners during its regular meeting Tuesday.

Bergman explained the county’s goals for the upcoming budget. He noted the goals can be sorted into two different categories — financial goals and policy goals.

“You kind of get pulled in two directions,” he said.

Financial goals reflected in the county’s proposed budget include maintaining strong financial reserves, ensuring strong budgetary performance, having a strong debt profile, and adequate management conditions. Policy goals reflected in the proposal include enhancing employee relations, improving citizen interactions, and prioritizing the justice system.

“Wherever we could find extra dollars… we shifted it over to the justice system,” Bergman said of the latter policy goal. He noted this is particularly important because the 2017-18 fiscal year will serve as a “bridge year” before the opening of the new Delta County Correctional Facility, which will have higher operating costs than the current jail.

The presentation also included a look at the county’s budget development process, which Bergman said begins with the calculation of the general fund budget gap. While the county’s property tax values increased by $65,000 and state revenue sharing increased by $18,300 since the 2016-17 budget, this was offset by annual inflationary costs — pension costs grew by $140,000, step and 2 percent salary increases grew by $50,000, and employer health care costs grew by $17,500.

As a result, Delta County’s preliminary general fund budget gap for the 2017-18 fiscal year was estimated to be $124,200. Once the county’s needs related to the new jail — including $110,000 for added corrections officers, $35,900 in additional food costs, and $10,000 for part-time corrections officers — were factored in, this gap grew to $275,000.

To fill the budget gap, Bergman said the county could use a four-step plan. Under this plan, the county would make some cuts to discretionary spending, including the elimination of the Community Corrections work van program, the paying off of renovation debts for the courthouse, and the reduction of maintenance costs made possible by an energy/infrastructure project. The county would also reconfigure property and liability insurance, capture residual equity interest, and capture cost allocation payments from the Childcare Fund. These proposed measures would create a surplus of more than $25,000.

The county’s proposed 2017-18 general fund budget was listed as $9,749,000. This would be an increase of $200,251 from the county’s 2016-17 general fund budget of $9,548,749.

Bergman’s presentation provided commissioners with information on the road patrol fund, airport fund, and building and zoning fund budgets for the 2017-18 fiscal year, as well. The road patrol fund budget was listed as $1,341,500, an increase of $71,586 from the fund’s budget of $1,269,914 in the current fiscal year; the airport fund budget was listed as $992,403, an increase of $59,769 from the fund’s current budget of $932,634, and the building and zoning fund budget was listed as $203,489, a decrease of $211 from the fund’s current budget of $203,700.

The presentation ended with a look at the county’s financial future, including information on upcoming pension increases. Bergman said the county’s pension stabilization fund alone should be able to cover these increases until the 2023-24 fiscal year.

“It’s going to mean that we’re not going to have to have these drastic, draconian cuts anytime soon because of our pension issues,” he said.

After the presentation, Board Chair David Rivard voiced his appreciation to Bergman for his work on this proposal.

“We thank you for that,” he said. A public hearing on the proposal will be held next month.

In other business, the board:

– approved a collective bargaining agreement with the circuit court union. This was approved after a discussion in closed session.

– authorized the filling of the recently-vacated Elections Clerk/Clerk and Register of Deeds position.

– approved minor price adjustments related to the installation of a search and rescue garage at the new Delta County Correctional Facility and the county’s purchase of land in Cornell Township from Weyerhaeuser.

– agreed to write a letter of support for townships applying for grant funding for an emergency signage project.