Dickinson budget up 1.3 percent


News Editor

IRON MOUNTAIN – Dickinson County will hold a public hearing Monday on a proposed 2014 general fund budget totaling $8.9 million, an increase of 1.3 percent from this year.

The hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the circuit courtroom of the courthouse.

The operating millage for the budget remains at 6.1203 mills, a rate that has stayed constant since 2003. But the county will see an estimated $385,590 in new revenues from a voter-approved levy of 0.4 mills for Enhanced 911 equipment and services.

About $175,000 of that new revenue will go to payments on a $525,000 loan secured to replace the 911 dispatch console, said Nicole Frost, county controller. The rest will be used to lessen the general fund allocation for the 911 budget. The 2014 appropriation is projected at $50,617, a decrease of $215,250 from 2013.

The 911 levy was approved earlier this year for a three-year period. The county remains obligated for loan payments of about $180,000 in both 2015 and 2016.

Under labor contracts with the county’s collective bargaining units, employees will see wage increases of about 2 percent in 2014 but will see their share of health insurance costs rise to 20 percent, up from the current 15 percent. The total employees’ share for health insurance premiums in 2014 is projected at $292,288, up from an estimated $181,301 this year.

The county’s share for health insurance is budgeted at $1.95 million, up more than $300,000 from an estimated $1.64 million in 2013, an increase of 19 percent.

To help cover the increase, the county plans to draw $108,536 from its Retiree Medical Care Reserve Fund. That fund, which has a current balance of $2.47 million, was created in 1998 to help pay previously negotiated health care benefits for county retirees. (Employees hired after Jan. 1, 1996, are not eligible for such benefits upon retirement.)

Health benefits for retirees will total $665,000 in 2014, or about one-third of the county’s health insurance costs. The 2013 total was $647,207.

Salaries and wages for county employees will account for about 44 percent of general fund expenditures in 2014, while fringe benefits total nearly 34 percent, Frost said.

All collective bargaining agreements expire at the end of 2014.

Some other highlights of the 2014 budget, as detailed by Frost:

– Because of an accounting adjustment, the total general fund budget will actually be listed at nearly $9.2 million. This change is due to the addition of the employees’ share for health insurance, which previously was kept off the general fund ledger.

– Appropriation requests from county departments and agencies that receive county funding were reduced by nearly $262,000 to match the level of available revenues.

– There will be no changes in staffing levels, other than reinstating a full-time dispatcher’s position. Over the past year, the county has filled that 40-hour vacancy through part-time hiring and overtime assignments.

– The appropriation to the public improvement fund is $10,000. The allocation for capital projects is $43,136, down from $65,421 in 2013. “Few funds are budgeted for any unforeseen or emergency facility or equipment repairs,” Frost noted, with only $40,000 budgeted for contingencies. The capital projects budget mainly consists of correctional center upgrades and computer-related purchases. “Going forward, the county must address means to invest in its facilities,” Frost said.

– There is no planned reduction in the county’s fund balance to support expenditures. The budget surplus, or fund balance, at the end of 2013 is projected at $1.53 million, up from a projected $1.34 million at the end of 2012.

– General property tax revenues to support the general fund will total nearly $5.9 million, an increase of about $135,000, or 2.3 percent.

– As a result of legislation to increase payments in lieu of taxes (PILT) to local governments for state-owned land, the county expects to see additional revenues of $99,942 from its nearly 200,000 state-owned acres. Total county revenues from the “swamp lands tax” in 2014 are projected at nearly $300,000.

– The county expects to receive $457,939 in state revenue sharing payments in 2014, an increase of about $115,000. Of that amount, $91,588 must be earned through the County Incentive Program (CIP), which includes a consolidation of services plan due by February, and an unfunded liability plan due by June. Requirements of the CIP dealing with accountability and transparency – including the posting of a performance dashboard – have already been met.

– The county’s contribution to the Municipal Employees Retirement System will total $785,652, while contributions from employees are estimated at $210,000.

– Dickinson Humane Society will receive $15,000, a reduction of $10,000, due in part to an anticipated fund balance of about $50,000.

– The Michigan State University Cooperative Extension will receive $71,276, up slightly from $68,340 this year, but still below the nearly $120,000 allocated in 2011.

– The allocation for the YMCA building is $18,217, down from $23,630 in 2013.

– Airport fund spending is $169,342, down from $200,000 this year.

– The mine inspector allocation is $6,980, up from $4,873 in 2012, but still below the $11,438 spent in 2011 before the board reduced the salary for the part-time elected position.

– The general fund allocation for county parks is $127,592, down from $130,00 in 2012. The spending includes $8,500 for aquatic nuisance control, namely assisting lake groups conducting milfoil treatments.

– Dickinson County Planning Commission will receive $1,500, up from $500, to assist in updating the county’s recreation plan.

– Some of the allocations unchanged from this year include Northpointe Behavioral Health Services, $99,630; Dickinson County Economic Development Alliance, $4,000; Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Regional Commission (CUPPAD), $9,000; TRICO Workshop, $4,500.

– The allocation for the Probate Child Care Fund is $150,000, the same as currently. The fund is used, in part, to pay the county’s obligations for housing juvenile offenders at out-of-county institutions.

– Allocations in the Recreation and Culture category include Dickinson Area Band, $4,000; Menominee Range Historical Foundation, $2,000; Menghini Historic Museum, $250; Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association, $250.

Jim Anderson’s email address is janderson@ironmountaindailynews.com.