BALDWIN — In a unanimous vote, the Lake County Board of Commissioners approved the 2020 fiscal year budget at its meeting Dec. 11.

Total expenditures and revenues for the FY2020 budget are $16.9 million, with general fund expenditures and revenues of $5.9 million.

"This year's proposed budget is just shy of $17 million spread out over 43 funds," Lake County Administrator Tobi Lake said. "It is the culmination of many hours of meetings with department heads and elected officials, and workshops with the board, and it is a balanced budget."

The general fund budget reflects anticipated property tax revenues of more than $3.6 million, which includes a projected 3.5% growth in taxable value for 2020. Significant additional revenues include $52,000 from the tri-county convention facilities tax, $258,000 from county revenue sharing, $108,000 from state payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) and $190,000 from Federal PILT.

Loss of revenue from the Residential Re-entry Program had put a significant strain on the budget, Lake said, but through elimination of positions, cutbacks in some areas and strategic planning, the board was able to mitigate the impact of that.

"The accumulative loss of revenue from the RRP was around $1 million," Lake said. "That was partially offset by the elimination of several positions, and with many of those employees going to GEO Group, Inc. North Lake Correctional Facility, we were able to avoid numerous layoffs."

Two part-time positions will be left unfilled for the 2020 fiscal year, one position in the equalization department will be terminated in March 2020, and one correctional officer position may be terminated, as well, depending on whether or not additional revenue can be found to fund that position, Lake said.

Additional revenue producing strategies for FY2020 include charging rental and administrative fees for other departments using county facilities, including the Sheriff's office, the ambulance facilities and the central dispatch located in the basement of the courthouse.

"Traditionally we charge a 5% administrative charge to these departments from their millage," Lake said. "That rate doesn't cover the costs for things like utilities and maintenance, so they are costing the taxpayer money. That's why we added a rental charge in addition to the 5% administrative charge."

Expenditure-reducing strategies include lowering the monthly premiums for employee health insurance and elimination of the Health Reimbursement Account, along with continuation of the new Retiree Health/OPEB charge for eligible employees, which is based on the benefits the employee chooses.

At a meeting in November, the board approved creation of a General Debt Service Fund to cover the principal and interest associated with the bond payments for the RRP facility and the courthouse/jail facility, which were previously paid from the RRP fund.

Fund transfers of more than $3 million from the delinquent tax fund and the Building Authority funds will be used to cover the payments on the two facilities with the goal of paying the bonds off entirely, Lake said.

"This board made the best decisions we could with the information we had," BOC member Karl Walls said. "There may be some decisions we don't all agree with, but in the big picture, we are going down a path that is financially responsible. We made some really good decisions, and hopefully, we can justify and explain those decisions to the public."

The resolution states, this is a "zero-sum budget" and any additional expenditures will come at the expense of other areas.

Copies of the budget are available online at lakecounty-michigan.com/Spotlight.aspx.