County takes early look at budget

ESCANABA — A wide range of topics — including Delta County’s proposed budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year — were discussed by members of the Delta County Board of Commissioners and county officials during a committee of the whole meeting Tuesday afternoon.

“This is a work session — it’s not a regularly-scheduled meeting,” Delta County Administrator Philip Strom said. The goal of Tuesday’s meeting was to give attendees an opportunity to talk about strategic initiatives in the county.

Strom started with an early look at Delta County’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. He said this budget has been posted online, along with a “budget message” providing an overview of the budget.

According to Strom, a slight increase in revenues has been forecast for the upcoming fiscal year’s general fund budget. In his draft, current tax revenues for 2018-19 were listed as $5,577,935; in the 2017-18 amended budget, these revenues were listed as $5,548,400. This marked an increase of $29,535.

“We are anticipating a modest revenue growth in terms of the current taxes,” Strom said. Despite this, he said he has been conservative in his budgeting.

Total revenues for the proposed 2018-19 general fund budget were listed as $10,298,574; this would be an increase of $297,874 from 2017-18’s total general fund revenues, which were listed as $10,000,700. Total appropriations were listed at $10,287,823 in 2018-19’s proposed general fund budget; in the current fiscal year, total general fund appropriations were listed as $10,000,700 ($287,123 lower than what they were listed as in the proposed 2018-19 general fund budget). The net revenue of the proposed 2018-19 general fund budget was listed as $10,751.

Strom said there is still some uncertainty surrounding Delta County’s budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year. This includes questions of how changes to the State of Michigan’s formula for handling personal property tax reimbursements will affect the county.

“That’s still a question mark, as to what the legislature is going to do with that in the coming months,” he said. Because of this, Strom has accounted for $600,000 in personal property tax reimbursements in the county’s 2018-19 budget; the county received over $1 million in these reimbursements during the current and previous fiscal years.

Factors contributing to budget-related uncertainty also include costs for the county’s new correctional facility, union contracts which have not yet been finalized, and questions surrounding employee health insurance.

The Delta County Board of Commissioners will continue discussion on the county’s 2018-19 budget next month. To download a copy of the budget and Strom’s budget message, visit deltacountymi.org/administration/admin-budget/.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the committee also discussed:

– the need to establish a capital improvements plan and a master plan for Delta County.

“Those two things go kind of hand in hand — it’s hard to have a capital improvements plan without having a master plan,” Strom said. According to Strom, capital improvements plans are generally six-year forecasts including prioritized lists of asset maintenance and acquisition, while master plans are multi-year comprehensive plans focusing on goals and priorities (including land use and county development).

Strom said the development of these plans is a high priority for him. The county’s master plan was last updated in 1996.

While these plans will have to be developed from the ground up, Strom said the county could save money on outside assistance for this process by working on both plans simultaneously.

“The capital improvements plan in and of itself isn’t so bad, and if we couple it with the master plan, I think we can probably get some cost savings,” he said.

– the possibility of increasing advertising for the Delta County Airport and the county as a whole. Strom said it would be ideal to work on this after finalizing the county’s master plan.

“Once we develop some of those key messages, I think that would be a good time and a good idea for us to fund an advertising campaign about Delta County,” he said.

Delta County Commissioner David Moyle said the current economic climate may be well-suited to such a campaign.

“Consumer confidence is at (an) 18-year high … right now nationally, so it might be the time to really, seriously talk about it,” he said.

– proposed capital outlay projects for the county’s parks. Delta Conservation District Executive Director Rory Mattson said the district is seeking financial assistance with the installation of sewers for non-rustic sites at Pioneer Trail Park, the installation of electric and water hookups for 20 rustic sites there, and meters for Pioneer Trail Park sites with electricity.

– the possibility of increased staffing needs for the Delta County Sheriff’s Office in the future.

“As we get inmates into the jail — as the sheriff’s department transitions over to the new facility — please don’t be surprised if we come to you with some creative solutions to some of these unforeseen or foreseen but unidentified issues that we’re trying to troubleshoot on the front end rather than the back end,” Strom said.

– the importance of training for county employees.

“What is there, it’s not just for you and I — it’s also for our employees,” Delta County Board of Commissioners Chair David Rivard said.

– potentially doing an analysis of county-owned land to look for ways to generate revenue on underutilized land. Strom said he would be able to look into this later this year.

– the possible creation of a protocol clarifying what to do in regard to county needs which arise while Strom is out of the office.

– the possibility of establishing an official policy regarding county cell phone use.

– the Rave Alert system. Strom provided a brief overview of this system, which allows county employees to opt into emergency alerts and notifications.

– the possibility of giving separate names to meeting spaces in the Delta County Service Center and next to Strom’s office at the Delta County Courthouse. The committee came to a consensus to refer to the service center meeting space as the “boardroom” and to refer to the courthouse meeting space as the “conference room.”

– the need for department heads to notify the administrative department when there is a change of employment in their department.

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