Lake County board adjusts budget

BALDWIN — The Lake County Administrator has published several changes to the county's 2016 budget, including several changes to keep the county's expenditures to exhaust its savings.

A significant amount — $1,024,000 — was needed to balance the budget for the coming year. Several one-time measures were taken to balance the budget for 2016, but many people, including County Administrator Tobi Lake, said this is not sustainable. The county's board of commissioners have been working with Lake to reduce the budget and find more permanent ways to ensure the county is living within its means.

"We haven't made many cuts," remarked Lake. "We haven't impacted anyone's job or anyone's benefits. Most of what we did was a lot of small cuts and one-time expenditures. This is an ongoing problem and we still have a long way to go."

One of the changes made includes the salary for the Sheriff's Department's undersheriff which will be funded 25 percent from the general fund and 75 percent from the road patrol budget, when it was previously a 50-50 split. In addition, half of the cost of the courtroom's new sound system will come from the treasurer's office fund while the other half will still come out of the general fund. The budget for a new Sheriff's Department car has been reduced to $3,000 from $6,000. The $2,000 for 2-1-1 service has been eliminated from the budget entirely.

Additionally, $25,000 for economic development will now be coming from the county's fund balance. The funds going to the indigent attorney for the GEO group was cut from $15,000 down to $1,000. The Mason-Lake Conservation District will receive $1,000 less from the county, while the Osceola-Lake Conservation District will be receiving $4,750 less. Bottled water for county employees was eliminated from the jail, courthouse and TRV, saving the county nearly $3,500 a year. Child care will use $146,850 from the general fund and $117,043 from fund balance.

A hiring freeze also will go into effect for the county. This means new employees or recently vacated positions on the county payroll can still be filled, however the departments must first go before the county's board of commissioners for approval to do so. A currently unfilled position for the equalization department will still be filled, but it will be delayed until July 1, 2016, which will save the county $26,000 next year.

"We're responsible to the tax payers to live within our means and balance the budget," said Lake. "If we don't do that we won't be doing any good to anyone. Our expenditures were exceeding our income and these changes were the best options we could find to counter our budget issues at this time."

There also was a discussion among commissioners to cut county funding for Michigan State University Extension/4-H in Lake County. The commissioners believed the MSU Extension programs were often redundant when looked at next to programs such as the health department and forest service. This would have cut almost $100,000 from the budget, but, ultimately, the board of commissioners decided to keep the funding in place.