Berrien County cutting jobs

Published 3:45 am Friday, October 22, 2010

gavelST. JOSEPH — A reduction in the workforce helped balance the 2011 Berrien County budget the board of commissioners approved unanimously Thursday.

The $50.98 million general fund budget is down 0.21 percent from 2010’s $51.09 million budget. To account for declining revenues, the county will cut about 13 employees.

Four out of the last five years, the county has had to cut employees, going from 744 in 2007 to 677 next year.

The general fund is the primary operating fund for the county, funding services like the sheriff’s department, the jail, court, clerk, treasurer and animal control.

The county cut most of the jobs by not replacing employees who have retired or quit and eliminating three health department positions.

District 12 Commissioner John LaMore said it’s been tough to have to cut so many employees in recent years.

“We’ve lost 65 to 75 people since I’ve joined the board,” LaMore said. “And yet we’re still maintaining close to the same services we did six years ago. It can be attributed to new technology and the extra effort and dedication of the staff we have.”

The decline in revenue can be attributed to a drop in county property tax values.

The county is expected to see tax dollars decrease by $456,425 and interest revenue fall $204,000 from this year’s budget to 2011. While taxable values dropped 1.6 percent from 2009 to 2010, next year’s budget accounts for property values to drop only 0.07 percent.

The county did not have to dip into its fund balance for the 2011 budget, while the 2010 budget used $520,000 of the fund balance.

The capital improvement projects outlined in the budget are few. The county’s mainframe computer elimination project is budgeted for $275,000, while a three-year program to replace personal computers in the county will cost $106,000.

Mandated services, required by the state such as clerk, courts and the prosecutor, make up 69.6 percent of the budget.

Support services, such as administration, personnel, maintenance and information systems, account for 22.9 percent of the budget.

Discretionary services, including road patrol, planning, parks and community development, make up 7.5 percent of the budget.

A 2011 special fund budget will be approved later this year.