Cass County considering 9-month fiscal year

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS -- Cass County is considering changing its fiscal year at the Board of Commissioners' next meeting Aug. 21.
County Administrator Terry Proctor noted that property taxes are the county's largest revenue source and represent a bit less of the general fund.
Tax revenue comes in at the beginning of the fiscal calendar year, in January, February and March, whereas expenditures occur over 12 months. One idea is to convert to a fiscal year starting Jan. 1, 2004, and goes nine months, ending Sept. 30 next year.
Such a move would, however, also change the fiscal years of the Road Commission and the Medical Care Facility.
Proctor added, "With the seriousness of what we're facing for the general fund in 2004," each meeting until the budget is adopted this fall will likely involve evaluating such financial options.
Proctor met recently with elected officials and department heads in a special "brown bag" brainstorming session. Three commissioners attended, too.
Proctor in the budget process previously adopted left the door open to a possible third August meeting devoted to finances.
Thursday he reiterated the need for such a session beyond Aug. 21, which is tentatively scheduled for 4:30 p.m. the following Thursday, Aug. 28, if there is no scheduling conflict with the Council on Aging.
Proctor said commissioners can stack up-to-date revenue forecasts against their spending priorities.
Proctor told Commissioner Ron Francis, R-Cassopolis, he expected to have an expenditure request total to compare to the revenue projections "so that you would know what the budget cap was. If we're going to have an extra meeting about the budget, it's got to be a meaningful meeting for everybody -- and that includes knowing the size of that gap.
Commissioner Robert Wagel, R-Wayne Township, offered the motion classifying the new position of grant coordinator at a Pay Grade 55 ($28,120-$35,082). The position is funded by grants. Commissioner Bruce Butchbaker, R-Marcellus, introduced action prohibiting smoking in the Law and Courts Building or the new E-911 center. A similar ban has been in place for the 1899 courthouse. Wagel, R-Wayne Township, attempted to attach an amendment to delete "and within 20 feet of the building entrances" because it would be a challenge to enforce, whether for visitors or employees "trying to slip out the back door" for a cigarette.
Commissioner David Taylor, D-Edwardsburg, moved that the contract for cleaning the Law and Courts Building be awarded to Kalamazoo Building Services, the low bidder at an annual cost of $47,940, or $3,995 per month.
Commissioner Debbie Johnson, D-Niles, praised the diligence of Maintenance Supervisor Dave Dickey. "He really did his homework on this. He weighed all the pros and cons and it's easily going to save us $50,000 to $60,000. It's not a piddly amount of money."
Commissioner Jack Teter, R-Edwardsburg, questioned Sheriff Joe Underwood about selling five 1995, 1997 and1998 Crown Victoria police cruisers to Bay Ridge Motors, Staten Island, N.Y., for $4,089, an average of $811, which seemed "low" to him. Underwood responded that local auctions yielded only $200 to $300 per vehicle.
Commissioner Alan Northrop spelled Commissioner Larry Malsch at Thursday's Road Commission meeting. He said bids were opened for a new garage in Milton Township. An open house for the new headquarters in Cassopolis is contemplated in mid-October.
Proctor also reported Sheriff Joseph M. Underwood Jr. has reached a draft agreement cross-jurisdiction and cross-deputization agreement between the County of Cass and the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians for law enforcement at the tribal reservation being established in Pokagon Township.
Commissioner Ron Francis, R-Cassopolis, reported openings on four appointed boards -- Board of Public Works, the Building Authority, the Economic Development Corp. and the Planning Commission.
Francis said all three of the county's legislators -- state Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, and state Reps. Rick Shaffer, R-Three Rivers, and Neal Nitz, R-Baroda, are expected to attend the EDC's noon open house Aug. 21.
The keynote speaker will be Jim Donaldson, vice president of development services for the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) on the state's business climate.
Francis is the EDC chairman, Dowagiac Economic Development Director Sandy Gower its secretary.
An industrial survey has been completed and will be presented Sept. 24.

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