Proctor proposes $14.1 million

Published 10:04 pm Friday, July 17, 2009

Niles Daily Star

CASSOPOLIS – County Administrator Terry Proctor Thursday night proposed a 2010 general fund budget of $14,163,576 for the Board of Commissioners to consider before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

In addition, county government accounted for in other funds, $14,561,270, yields a total budget of $28,724,846.

The $14,163,576 general fund is less than the $14,410,402 budgeted for 2009. The 2008 budget spent $12,863,880 of the $13,988,299 revenue available.

“The last 18 months have challenged state, county and local governments,” Proctor wrote in a four-page overview. “There was a national recession, the financial markets were disrupted, gasoline prices were up and down and two big automakers went bankrupt. Michigan has been hit hard and the state continues to wrestle with many issues, including its structural budget problem. The future is a challenge to all of us because we can’t predict it. This budget encourages flexibility in light of the changing times.”

Proctor, hoarse from fighting a cold, limited his comments.

Property taxes of 4.6359 mills will generate $8,459,679, or 59.7 percent of general fund revenue. The tax rate may be rolled back by the Headlee amendment each year depending on the increase in taxable value. Proctor’s proposed budget assumes no increase in taxable value.

Charges for services is the third-largest revenue category. The decline projected for 2010 is based on fewer real estate recordings in the Registry of Deeds. A stabilization in the real estate market would assist this revenue category.
Intergovernmental revenue is the combination of state and federal grants recorded in the general fund. It is projected to decline slightly, but this could improve if stimulus money and other grants are obtained.

Transfers in includes $220,233 from the delinquent tax fund for Law and Courts Building maintenance, utilities and a clerk’s position in the Treasurer’s office as previously voted by the commission.

Another transfer in from the revenue sharing reserve fund of $1,040,997 is recommended, which would leave $1,161,484 for 2011.

“County government is not a business,” Proctor commented, “but incorporating business practices in the county’s operations can have positive results. It must be remembered that county government provides public services for the public good that businesses are unwilling or unable to provide. For example, Cass County provides services for the mentally ill, the aged and the poor. It also protects public safety through operating a road patrol, jail, prosecution and courts.”

“Within its operations,” Proctor continued, “Cass County operates governmental activities – functions principally supported by taxes and intergovernmental revenues – and business-type activities – functions intended to recover all or a significant portion of their costs through user fees and charges. The county’s two significant business-type activities are the Medical Care Facility and collecting delinquent property taxes.”

“Fiscal and employment challenges in Michigan are affecting households, businesses and governments,” he stated. “This is also providing an opportunity to consider improvements in the county’s operations, reducing its costs and collaborating with partners.

“One such opportunity is to partner with other commissions or districts in the county and region. For example, the Maintenance Department may be able to assist the Road Commission and the Road Commission may be able to assist the Maintenance Department. Another partner might be Cass District Library. The Maintenance Department could maintain library buildings and grounds, the library could provide information, research and historical services.

“General fund expense is largely wages, salaries and benefits” for 169 employees. “Wages and salaries are set by the Board of Commissioners and also through collective bargaining and arbitration. The budget covers health insurance increases by utilizing a surplus in the self-insurance fund. It also includes adjustments for retirement costs that are up $37,000 due to loss of value of investments last year.”

Proctor described the draft classification and compensation study as nearly finished. This study should result in corrections to position pay classifications and fairness in compensation. The idea is “similar pay for similar work.” He estimated the cost to implement the updated classification and compensation system at $26,796.

Parks and Recreation Director Scott Wyman’s position was included in the classification and compensation study. Salary and benefits will be determined by the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Board of Commissioners prior to Oct. 1. Similarly, parks capital improvements – land, buildings and equipment – need to be determined by both boards.

Proctor reiterated that the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) in Lansing erred in approving a phone surcharge that does not generate enough revenue to operate Cass County’s E911 central dispatch. His budget relies on the county adopting a special millage to make up the difference.

The public improvement fund acquires, repairs and equips public buildings. The administrator said there is a need to equip county buildings and offices with computerized document imaging systems. Such systems decrease time spent searching for records and decrease the number of file cabinets needed for storage. Proctor said $200,000 was included in the 2009 spending plan, but not used, so he recommended this amount be reflected in the 2010 budget.

Cass County Drug Enforcement Team’s fund accounts for the drug enforcement team millage and its activities. The team is a partnership of the City of Dowagiac and Cass County Sheriff’s Office. It is made up of 3.5 detectives, a drug prosecutor, a uniformed deputy and a clerk from the county and three detectives from Dowagiac Police Department.

Finally, in 2007 the Board of Commissioners adopted a policy to control the balance in the self-insurance fund. “The policy has been applied for the third time in this budget,” Proctor stated. “The result of the policy is holding premiums level with the current year premiums,” saving $165,000 in the budget.
Tara Myer and Jackie Taylor helped him prepare 15 pages of financial data.
budget for Cass