Osceola County officials struggling to balance 2018 budget

Osceola County Commissioners Pamela Wayne (left) and Roger Elkins listen to their fellow commissioners during Monday’s budget work session at courthouse in Reed City. County officials are faced with having to use nearly $793,000 of reserve funding to balance the county’s 2018 general fund. (Pioneer photo/Brandon Fountain)

REED CITY — Osceola County officials are faced with having to use around $790,000 in reserve funding to balance the county’s 2018 general fund budget.

Osceola County Commissioners once again dug deep into the many line items comprising the proposed budget during a special work session Monday afternoon at the Osceola County Courthouse.

County Coordinator Susan Vander Pol, Clerk Karen Bluhm, Treasurer Lori Leudeman, Equalization Director Rosie McKinstry and Undersheriff Justin Halladay took part in the wide-ranging discussion, all looking to find areas where additional cuts could be made.

As it has been a topic of much discussion since it was first introduced three months ago with nearly $2 million more in expenditures than revenues, officials spent much of Monday trying to reduce the hit to the fund balance.

Leading up to Monday’s work session, officials have tried several approaches to balance the 2018 budget, including increasing some departmental fees, cutting expenditures and investigating a myriad of ideas. When presented with the proposed budget during the work session, officials saw they would still have to use $833,562 of fund balance to balance the general fund.

“That’s the number you’re working with to try to reduce,” Vander Pol said. “That’s the amount of revenue short of expenditures.”

Over the last three budget years, the county has used its fund balance to help balance the budget. It’s a practice, Vander Pol said, that has to change.

“We can’t continue to do that,” she said. “You can usually use $300,000 to $400,000 of fund balance and be OK, but once that number starts getting higher than $300,000, then it’s time to get concerned.”

Officials figured using $400,000 was a sufficient amount of fund balance to use in a given year to help balance the budget, but still face twice that amount in the 2018 budget.

“I’m looking carefully at that $400,000 amount and see just as much left to cut,” said Commissioner Larry Emig. “Realistically, how are we going to do that? Looking at the figure, it’s going to be contingent on us to be proactive. I guess, it comes down to whether or not we should nickel and dime it, because we should continue to do that. If we find $2,000 here or $3,000 here, it does add up.

“Realistically, what are going to to cut from? That’s the bottom line. Are we going to be able to find $20,000 here from something, $50,000 or even $100,000 here or there? If we find $4,000 or $5,000 here or there, it’s not going to cut $800,000. If we are going to take $400,000 more from fund balance with the hope and idea that our continuing efforts are going to be significant enough to cut the charges to the general fund, it’s going to be tough to make cuts without affecting services or staff.”

With some changes to the administrative costs and how certain benefits are administered, Bluhm was able to find roughly $37,000 in savings and proposed county commissioners look at that.

With those savings, officials would need to use $793,000 of fund balance for the 2018 proposed budget. However, Bluhm and others noted additional money could be saved if hybrid health and retirement packages are looked into in the spring. Changes in plans also would provide some relief in the later part of 2018, but those amounts couldn’t be projected.

Officials also looked at selling county-owned land, such as 15 acres of property on M-66 where a tire fire occurred in the late 1990s, as well as a piece of land near the road commission’s building in Tustin.

No official decisions were made by county commissioners during the work session, as they continued to have staff look for ways to reduce the amount of fund balance used for the 2018 budget.

The next Osceola County Committee of the Whole is set for 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 21.


Posted by Brandon Fountain

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