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Delta County looks toward budget

ESCANABA — Delta County’s budget for its 2019-20 fiscal year is currently in the works, Delta County Administrator Philip Strom said.

Strom is aiming to present an early draft of the county’s 2019-20 budget to the Delta County Board of Commissioners next month.

“I would like to have that working draft by the first meeting in August,” Strom said.

The meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 6.

This marks the second time Strom has been at the forefront of developing a Delta County budget. Along with his involvement in the development of the county’s 2018-19 budget, he has had experience with departmental budget development in his former role as the county’s prosecutor.

Strom also spoke about his goals for Delta County’s 2019-20 budget, which include having a balanced budget and better predicting long-term operating costs associated with the new Delta County Correctional Facility. His final main goal for the 2019-20 budget is to develop a long-term plan for capital asset and facility improvements.

Strom described the latter goal as “being more proactive for the future of our buildings and other capital assets, such as equipment.”

According to Strom, the plan will largely focus on improvements to the Delta County Courthouse, Delta County Airport terminal and Delta County Service Center — including the Delta County Correctional Facility, which is now located at the service center.

Courthouse security upgrades could be included as part of this goal, as well.

“That could mean a range of things,” Strom said, noting possibilities include changing the building’s layout and adding security personnel at the courthouse.

Strom said the county’s budget development process begins in full force about six months into each fiscal year.

“The first step would be gathering past budget information, primarily actual revenues received and actual expenditures for the last three to five years,” he said regarding the start of the process.

After this, Strom takes known new revenues and expenditures for the upcoming fiscal year into account.

“That preliminary information serves as the first rough draft for the budget, which is distributed to department heads,” he said.

Later, Strom meets with the department heads to get their input on the rough draft of the county budget.

“After they provide input, we will provide that working draft to the board of commissioners for additional review and comments,” Strom said.

This feedback is then taken into account, and a public hearing is held on the budget before it is approved. Typically, Strom said the public hearing takes place during the Delta County Board of Commissioners’ first meeting in September and the budget is adopted during the board’s second meeting of the month.

Late last week, Strom began distributing a rough draft of the county’s 2019-20 budget to department heads. He will receive input on the budget from department heads this week and next week.

Strom said the county must deal with some challenges as it works to develop its 2019-20 budget, such as balancing the needs and wants of all county departments.

“We would always like to fulfill all requests by the internal departments — unfortunately, we’re never able to accommodate each and every request,” he said.

Strom also noted issues with the state of Michigan’s budget are having an impact on Delta County’s budget development process. This is the case because some revenue projections for the county depend on the state budget.

“This year, it’s taking the state a bit longer to pass their budget,” he said.

On the other hand, the county does have some advantages as it develops its next budget.

“I think having the construction complete on the jail allows us to focus on some of the other county needs,” Strom said.

He also said the support area voters gave to a law enforcement millage request in spring will help the county.

“The recent approval for additional road patrol funding through the millage will allow us to offer more law enforcement and public safety in the county,” Strom said.

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