County finalizes 2015-16 fiscal year budget with use of fund balance

MANISTEE — Despite having to potentially dip into its fund balance, the Manistee County Board of Commissioners finalized and approved its budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year on Tuesday at its regular monthly meeting.

The commissioners adopted a general fund budget of $10,826,666 and supplemental fund budgets totaling $7,130,378 (netting $4,765,446 with transfers-in from the general fund), while also resolving to levy a total millage of 8.7300 mills for the upcoming fiscal year.

Manistee County controller/administrator Tom Kaminski gave the board his final report of this year’s budget process, which highlighted adjustments made since the commissioners adopted a tentative budget on Aug. 18.

“Last month at this meeting, you adopted a (tentative) general fund budget totaling $10,783,868 and a supplemental fund budget of $7,106,113,” he explained. “Since that time, you’ve had personnel committee meetings, joint court committee meetings, two budget study sessions and some of the actions you took today that all change the budget.”

The actions taken Tuesday included approval of a pair of county employment agreements as well as wage increases for all non-union, elected officials and court employees, all to go into effect on Oct. 1 and were recommended by the board’s personnel committee.

The board approved a title change and increase in salary for personnel officer/administrative assistant Lisa Sagala through a two-year employee agreement that is renewable on an annual basis. Sagala’s new title will be human resources manager/assistant administrator, and she will receive an increase in salary from $48,153.09 to $55,365.01.

Following through with its consensus at a budget study session held on Aug. 24, the board also approved a two-year employee agreement with county jail administrator Lt. Steve Pizzala, increasing his salary from $51,084 to $54,595.58.

The employment agreements are two of seven recently accepted by the board, as five contracts were approved at the August regular meeting and budgeted for the upcoming fiscal year.

Finally, the commissioners accepted a motion to increase the wage of all non-union, elected officials and court employees by 1 percent.

Kaminski emphasized the county’s need to include the use of its fund balance into the budget, which, with Tuesday’s adjustments, increased from $133,642 to $172,751 since the tentative budget was adopted.

“Those additional expenses and minor revenue increases makes the budget before you today not balanced by $39,109,” he said. “So, you will be budgeting — and I say budgeting, because by the end of next year you might not have to transfer that much — … but right now, that’s the way the budget looks.

“The reason that you’re using fund balance is very simple: it’s because costs are going up,” he added. “Your expenses are going up and your revenue is not growing. … Hopefully we’ve hit the bottom and we’re actually able to see a small, small increase in our taxable value. … Right now, we’re still hanging in there.

“The ideal budget would be completely balanced with no use of fund balance. … (but) we have never had to use fund balance yet. … This is a budget, which means you haven’t spent any of this money yet. This is a plan.”

County treasurer Russ Pomeroy echoed that sentiment.

“We always budget fund balance, but we’ve never had to dip into it,” he said. “We’ve always ended up with a surplus.”

County commissioner Brook Shafer responded by saying, “The reason that happens is because when we’re doing the budget, we are very conservative as to what we plan to spend on individual departments and then the departments are very diligent too.”

Kaminski agreed.

“We are also very conservative with our revenue projections, which sometimes cause our revenue to come in higher than projected.”

The general fund budget that was accepted Tuesday is $189,017 or 1.7769 percent higher than the current fiscal year’s budget.

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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