ALPENA - Entering 2012, the Alpena County Board of Commissioners knew it was going to have to operate under a budget deficit, but after making some difficult decisions the same will not be said for 2013. During today's county finance meeting the committee is expected to approve a balance budget of $8,413,946.
Once approved by the finance committee, it will go before the full board of commissioners for final approval. Commissioner Lyle VanWormer said there were 15 meetings scheduled to plan for next year's expected finances, but it only took six to hammer out the details and get the job done. He said the board, Clerk Bonnie Friedrich and Treasurer Joelyn McCallum worked well together in the planning effort.
"The budget workshops went very well and all of the commissioners, as well as Bonnie and Joelyn, did an excellent job doing what we needed to do to get a balanced budget," VanWormer said.
VanWormer said the county was facing a $400,000 deficit for 2013 and some cuts and tighter budgets for the individual departments were necessary to get the revenues and expenses to match. He said after the last budget meeting there still was a deficit of about $36,000 but it was agreed upon to move some money out of some of the county's smaller funds and into the general fund to make up the difference.
VanWormer said there were some proposed cuts in the new budget that were difficult to make, but needed to be done because the items could no longer be afforded due to loss of revenue the county has faced. He said cutting the $15,000 cash and the officer dedicated to the Huron Undercover Narcotics Team was one example of some of the tough choices the commissioners had.
"Right off the top we lost $150,000 in revenue sharing from the state and another $100,000 in assessed value for the tax-roll and overall we were starting off with $350,000 less income than last year," VanWormer said. "We had to cut some things, such as HUNT because we just can't afford it any longer. There were tough decisions, but we made them and we got it balanced."
There are some projects the county hopes to move forward with in 2013. VanWormer said a new phone system is budgeted for and a joint venture with the City of Alpena to install fiber optics down the M-32 corridor also will continue. He said having fiber available all the way to the airport is a must considering the direction the county is taking.
"We funded the phone system and that was something we have needed for a long time and the fiber project," VanWormer said. "Having access out there is critical to the drone project."
VanWormer said both union and non-union employees are in line to get a 37 cent pay increase in 2013, but for the department heads it is going to be another year of paying close attention to how money is spent. He said the board is going to have to do the same thing.
"The budgets are about as lean as you can get, but if everyone follows their budgets we'll be fine," VanWormer said. "We're only going to have $30,000 in our contingency fund, which is the same as this year, but that leaves little to spend on things which aren't budgeted for."
After the budget is presented to the committee McCallum can make changes to it until Nov. 26. She said once it goes on display to the public though it can't be altered until the end of the first quarter in 2013.
"I hope to have it ready for display for Nov. 30 and it will remain on display until the full board of commissioners vote on it on Dec. 27," McCallum said. "People can stop into my office or the clerk's office if they would like to look at it."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.