Commissioners adopt 2012 budget

Published 6:45 pm Friday, September 9, 2011

CASSOPOLIS — Cass County commissioners Thursday night approved the 2011-2012 child care budget.
“Every year since I became probate judge in 1995 we’ve been under budget and returned money back to commissioners. We know that’s not the same in other counties, which I’m sure you’ve heard at MAC (Michigan Association of Counties) conferences,” commented Judge Susan Dobrich. “We work very closely with the Department of Human Services,” represented by Acting Director Cindy Underwood.
Dobrich explained that the budget has two “sides.”
“The DHS side funds child abuse cases,” Dobrich said, “and the court side funds juvenile cases. On the court side, juvenile cases, when kids are placed in a treatment program, the county pays 50 percent and the state pays 50 percent. Also, on the juvenile side, the probation officers are paid 50 percent.
“On the DHS side, if the family qualifies, the federal government pays for the services 100 percent through a formula which eventually comes back and reimburses the county for any expenses. By working collaboratively with DHS and Woodlands, we have many programs to keep young people out of placement, which is extremely expensive. We were one of the first counties to have a Wraparound program, which we’ve been doing since the early ’90s. We work extensively on in-home services that allow children to remain home. We, of course, have Treatment Court, which hopefully you’ve read about … and we’e doing a truancy collaborative with the school systems which, hopefully, will get kids back in school.
“Woodlands is great to work with because it does blended funding, paying some of the placement costs for kids with serious mental health issues,” Dobrich said. “We’re proud to say we’ve been under-budget since 1995 and believe we’ll return $75,000 this year. The budget as presented, the difference is $24,640 from last year. Of that, $20,000 is in DHS counseling. Counseling cost has gone up, but additionally, we’re using more counseling to keep kids out of placement. (Juvenile Register) Joni Patzer deserves a lot of credit for putting that budget together. The total cost of the children’s justice system is well over $3 million to $4 million.”
The document before commissioners detailed expenditures of $1,260,180.47.
Commissioners also adopted the $14.2 million county budget.
Commissioners directed the county’s share of four cents a pack cigarette tax 12/17ths ($1,765) as an additional appropriation to the Van Buren-Cass District Health Department and 5/17ths ($735) for operation of the county jail.
Cass County receives an estimated $167,290 for 2012 from convention facility and liquor taxes, appropriating half for general county operations and half ($83,645) for substance abuse programs.
In other Sept. 1 business, Water Resources Commissioner Bruce Campbell followed up on a citizen complaint made May 5.
Bill Gibson of Pitcher Lake Campground appealed to the county board as a court of last resort after lodging similar complaints with the state, Campbell and Wayne Township.
“We’ve had a small RV campground on that lake (along the Van Buren County line)  for some 40 years,” said Gibson, whose parents purchased the property in 1967.
“There’s been a restriction in the county drain in that lake all the time since my parents bought the property,” Gibson said. “On the north side of the property my daughter and son-in-law have a building. They went to the township to ask for permission to do work on farm vehicles. Wayne Township gave them approval, but the man on neighboring land-locked property did not want that to happen, so he took a backhoe, dug out the county drain and knocked the restriction out. Thus, we have no water, basically … It started a year ago in April.”
“Since that time, a lot of things have happened,” Campbell updated commissioners. “There have been many discussions with a lot of different people, one being the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which cited one of the property owners on the lake for violations. I did some surveys to get a better idea of the lake watershed and lake levels and I also got some free legal advice from probably the top drain attorney in Michigan. I’d like to report that as of last week, the lake has been restored.
“Also, the county drain under my jurisdiction in my office has had restoration work done. I’ll continue to monitor the situation through the fall and the spring when there’s winter snow melt.”
Commissioners will be touring the Cassopolis boat museum prior to their next meeting Sept. 15.