Delta County budget grows in 2018-19

ESCANABA — The Delta County Board of Commissioners approved several different budget-related motions — including a motion to adopt the county’s budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year — during its regular meeting Tuesday. The county’s 2018-19 fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

Before the board’s vote, Delta County Administrator Philip Strom delivered a presentation on the county’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year. For the 2018-19 fiscal year, the county’s general fund budget grew from $10,023,450 in the amended 2017-18 budget to $10,111,280 — an increase of $87,830.

Along with information on the general fund budget, Strom provided commissioners with information on the county’s road patrol, airport, and building and zoning fund budgets for the 2018-19 fiscal year. The road patrol fund budget was listed as $1,357,993, a decrease of $6,215 from the fund’s budget of $1,364,208 in the current fiscal year; the airport fund budget was listed as $1,156,542, a decrease of $68,946 from the fund’s current budget of $1,225,488; 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.

In his presentation, Strom said his strategy when developing the county’s 2018-19 budget was to utilize recent board and management actions which have ensured an ongoing balanced budget, to use actual expenditures and revenues over the last three to five years while making predictions, to stay fiscally conservative when unsure of what the future holds, and to maintain discretionary line items to fund ideas developed later in the fiscal year.

“We’re not (going to) recreate the wheel when you’ve had a balanced budget for the last several years — a lot of the heavy lifting’s been done,” he said.

Strom noted the county’s four main financial goals for the 2018-19 budget are maintaining strong financial reserves, ensuring strong budgetary performance, having a strong debt profile, and having adequate management conditions. The county’s main policy goals for the 2018-19 budget are enhancing employee relations, improving citizen interactions, and prioritizing the criminal justice system.

In regards to the last of these policy goals, Strom said that — once the county has a more solid understanding of what the new Delta County Correctional Facility will cost to operate — it will be able to focus more on other areas of the criminal justice system and the county government.

“As we get some stability with the operational cost of that facility, it’s going to allow us to be more comprehensive with our focus on the criminal justice system and tackle other issues, whether it’s courthouse security or interesting programming within the jail,” he said.

He also noted Delta County’s financial support of its criminal justice system has increased over the past few years. In the county’s 2014-15 fiscal year, 18.8 percent (or $1,827,908) of the county’s general fund budget was put towards corrections; in the 2018-19 fiscal year, 22.79 percent (or $2,330,982) of this fund has been designated for this purpose.

Strom’s presentation included a look at some of the biggest changes in general fund department allocations in the county’s 2018-19 budget, as well. Among these were an increase of $74,820 to the corrections department to fund additional full-time corrections officers and to support the future operation of the new correctional facility, an increase of $15,500 to the medical examiner department to pay for additional required autopsies, an increase of $37,253 to the contingency department to pay for unanticipated expenses, and an increase of $142,850 to the miscellaneous department for increases in non-allocatable pension costs.

These changes also included a decrease of $203,593 to the circuit and district court departments due to the transfer of attorney fee revenues and expenses to a separate fund for an indigent defense grant, a decrease of $27,640 to the sheriff administration department to reflect that funds for a vehicle bought in the current fiscal year are not being requested for the upcoming fiscal year, and a decrease of $57,110 to the appropriations department as a result of savings from the county’s final debt payment.

Strom also shared a list of ongoing future considerations which could have an impact on upcoming county budgets with the board. These considerations include the impending arrival of a new state Legislature, the changing demographics of Delta County and the Upper Peninsula as a whole, the need to monitor the county’s appropriations, the need for additional courthouse security, the high likelihood that additional corrections officers will be needed as the population of the Delta County Correctional Facility grows, and questions related to the location and staffing of the county’s veterans affairs office.

Strom’s presentation, along with his budget message and the county’s full line-item budget, can be found online at www.deltacountymi.org.

“We’re trying to be as transparent as possible with the budget process and the budget for you,” Strom said.

In other business, the board:

– accepted a 2018 county winter tax millage rate of 5.0317 mills.

– voted in favor of levying the 911/Central Dispatch Authority millage at a rate of 0.45 mills.

– heard from representatives of organizations applying for Hannahville 2 percent grants. These grant applications were included in the county’s 2018-19 budget.

– gave Delta County Treasurer Tom Sabor authority to change the county’s credit card service provider at his discretion.

– approved the donation of sick time from Accountant/Payroll Administrator Kathy Blixt to Assistant Airport Manager Suani Nieto. (Vice Chair Patrick Johnson, who is married to Nieto, abstained from this vote.)

– voted to accept Sabor’s resignation, as recommended by the personnel committee.

– approved out-of-county travel to allow commissioners to attend the U.P. Association of County Commissioners Fall Conference in Harris on Oct. 18 and 19.