BALDWIN – Following a public hearing, the Lake County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to adopt the Fiscal Year 2021 budget proposal and authorize county expenditures at its meeting Dec. 9.

“This board made some tough decisions last year and we are not out of the woods yet, but this year was easier because of the decision made last year,” County Administrator Tobi Lake said.

One of those decisions involved closing of the Residential Reentry Program, which was costing the county around $315,000 a year in operating expense, while revenue being generated was just over $40,000, due to continually decreasing numbers of inmates being housed there.

Since the RRP was closed, Lake said, the county has continued to pay around $80,000 a month for maintaining the facility. In addition, they are continuing to cover the principle and interest costs associated with the bond payments for the facility.

In 2020, to help balance the budget, the Board of Commissioners created the General Debt Service Fund 301, with funds from the Building Authority, to cover the principle and interest costs associated with the bond payments for the RRP Facility along with the Jail and Courthouse.

In addition, excess delinquent tax funds are budgeted to cover one half of the bond payment for the RRP, around $150,000, with the other half coming from the General Fund.

Other steps taken in 2020 included reduced staffing, not backfilling vacant positions, and reducing contributions to other funds.

The proposed FY2021 annual budget for Lake County includes about $18.5 million in expenditures, of which wages and benefit costs are about $8.3 million.

The general fund revenues and expenditures are projected to be $6,255,706.

During the meeting, the BOC approved an agreement for FY2021 MSU Extension services for $54,493.

Lake told the BOC that in the 2021 budget, the base funding amount has stayed the same as previous years, however the total of the agreement is slightly higher than last year because they have agreed to increase the amount for 4-H funding.

“Previously you were paying for half of 4-H,” Lake said. “We went up one-fourth, so now you are paying three-fourths of 4-H. That is back to where we were previously after cutting the amount for 2020. That is an increase of $16,342.”

BOC member Karl Walls said the BOC is generally supportive of anything that will benefit the children in the community, but that going forward he would suggest keeping an eye on those types of expenditures to make sure the county is getting what it's paying for.

“I’m not advocating to get rid of it, but I am suggesting we stay on top of it,” Walls said. “$56,000 is a lot of money and they need to have some pretty good data that justifies that amount of money.

“4-H has been doing a lot better job lately about programming, and there is a lot of history there,” he continued. “Keep in mind, however, it is not something we have to provide, but something we choose to provide to take care of the kids in our community. They need to do a good job of justifying that expenditure.”

James Kelly, MSU Extension District 5 director, said the funding is providing a full time educator in Lake County, along with office support and a 4-H coordinator housed in the county.

“Lori is there for 4-H for the county half time right now, with possibly being three-fourth’s time next year,” Kelly said. “In addition, we are hiring a full-time nutrition instructor that will be housed in Lake County starting the first of the year.”

In addition, he said, they will have access to a broad network of MSU Extension programs and conservation efforts.

BOC member Christine Balulis added that the numbers of participants in the programs has been increasing.

“Lori has done a wonderful job of bringing the number up and involvement is good,” Balulis said. “I agree it is something we should keep an eye on and let’s hope the numbers continue to grow.”

IN OTHER BUSINESS

In other business, due to the increasing numbers of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in the county and the extension of the lockdown orders from Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the BOC approved keeping the courthouse closed to the public until they meet again in January.

County staff is available by appointment only and all committee meetings have been postponed until further notice.

District Health Department No. 10 has reported, as of Dec. 10, a total of 244 confirmed positive cases in Lake County, an increase of more than 150 cases since early November, with six confirmed deaths.

The BOC also approved a resolution approving the appointment of Lake County Equalization director Casey Guthrie as the designated assessor for Lake County.

According to Lake, the state was considering taking all assessing duties for the local level to the county level, but the counties said they did not want to do that.

The state, instead, passed a bill that mandated a rolling audit of all local assessments.

“The law is such that if there are false assessments, the local entity is given a chance to correct it,” Lake said. “If they can’t fix it satisfactorily, they can hire a new assessor, have the state step in and do the assessing, or they can use a designated assessor put in place in advance.”

The designated assessor has to be approved by the BOC and the majority of the local units, Lake said.

Several townships have already approved the inter-local designated assessor agreement with the county.

During the meeting the BOC also approved the following:

• A motion to approve the FY2021 Snowmobile Enforcement Program grant agreement for $7,500;

• A motion to authorize submission of the FY2021 Medical Marijuana Operation and Oversight grant in conjunction with District Health Department No.10 in the amount of $3,185, for the purpose of medical marijuana education;

• A motion to authorize the FY2021 Survey and Remonumentation grant application and agreement with the state office of land survey in the amount of $34,961.00;

• A motion to authorize the purchase of a 2021 Ford Explorer Interceptor for the Lake County Sheriff’s department at a cost not to exceed $37,552 and the outfit it by ProCam at a cost not to exceed $6,805.50;

• A motion to authorize the purchase of a virtual server, including installation and configuration, from IT Right in an amount not to exceed $15,464;

• A motion to authorize the execution of a 5-year lease with West Michigan Community Mental Health for the facilities at 1090 N. Michigan Ave., Baldwin.