Auditor tells BOC 2012 slightly worse than 2011, but on right track

At Wednesday’s meeting, the Clare County Board of Commissioners went over the audit report for Fiscal Year 2011 with State auditor Roxanne Nicholas from the Michigan Department of Treasury.  Nicholas and Board members leafed through the document, as Nicholas directed them to the highlights.  “This, again, looks at assets, capital assets, some long term debt and other liabilities, and then looking at fund balance.  So the bottom line shows total net assets. In this grid, we can see that the total net assets of the County did go down by $1.1 million from last year to 2011.  That shows the total net assets for the County at $9.2 million for 2011,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas directed their attention to another page, noting, “This shows the total revenues did go down between the two years by $585,000, while expenses went up slightly at $218,000.”  As for the General Fund balance, Nicholas reported, “The General Fund revenues were $9.7 million for 2011, and expenditures were $10.4 million, and it did leave the fund balance at $1.4 million.”

When asked if there were things the Board should be aware of or doing differently in budgeting, Nicholas replied, “It’s tough for everybody right now, especially this county.  I think that funding, as it is, is certainly an immediate problem that I think the Board is taking a look at right now.  In terms of Fiscal Year ’12, it’s not looking as a positive compared to ’11, so I think keeping on with looking for ways to save while maintaining the most services that you can is probably the best way to go.”

As far as deficiencies that could be addressed, Nicholas noted that there were no major concerns, but that the District Court’s petty cash and the Jail’s commissary monies might benefit from tightened procedures.  She also noted that purchasing procedures were not uniform, and commented to the Board, “I think that a whole comprehensive purchasing policy should be a priority of the County.”

Although it is common wisdom that 2012 should be another year that the County’s finances would be on the decline, Administrator Tracy Byard reported that, currently, revenues were higher than at this time last year by over $357,000.  Expenses, while also up from 2011, were only $230,000 higher, Byard said.

Also on the subject of finances, Chairperson Don David reported that the most recent Ad hoc committee meeting concluded that the expenditures for Fiscal Year 2013 – which starts October 1st – should be budgeted at $10.4 million.   Since figures are still being gathered and generated, the Board agreed to set a new date for the next Ad hoc committee meeting at their next regular Board meeting.

Chairperson David also remarked on the problems regarding duplicated or confusing road names throughout the County.  He noted that since Clare County is not zoned, the Board has no authority to make any changes in road names or numbering.  “We can talk about it until we’re blue in the face, but unless the townships themselves want to do something about it, it isn’t going to happen,” David said.  Commissioner Jack Kleinhardt added, “I’m willing to work with the townships, but I’m not willing to muscle them.”  Kleinhardt stated that he felt that trying to correct the situation might result in more problems for residents than it solved.  Commissioner Jim Gelios said that the concern was brought up at the 911 Advisory Board meeting, and that the Advisory Board wanted to look into the problem further.  Commissioners passed a Street Naming and Numbering ordinance last year (working with Consumers, the townships and other entities), but it was noted that few townships adopted it.

Commissioners reported that some township residents had been asking for minutes to recent meetings.  Clerk/Register of Deeds Pam Mayfield said that the minutes were completed, but the recording system and her laptop computer had experienced problems that were trying to be corrected by IT Coordinator Jim Neff.  Neff was asked to come before the Board to discuss the importance and the likelihood of retrieving the minutes from Mayfield’s laptop, and what it would cost to replace the laptop and purchase suitable software.  Neff said he could purchase a laptop for $2,000, but it would have to be compatible with whatever software Mayfield wanted to replace the recording/minutes software that was no longer available and would not work with newer versions of Windows.  The Board voted unanimously to have Neff and Mayfield continue to work together to see ASAP if the minutes could be gotten off the laptop, and to determine suitable replacement equipment and software.

Sarah Kile from Ten Sixteen Recovery Network reported to the Board on services provided by 2-1-1 and drug prevention efforts.  Kile emphasized the high usage of the synthetic drugs “bath salts” and “spice”.  “This one we know causes death, seizures; both of them are very dangerous and they’re widely used in this area,” Kile told the Board.  “When it comes to these two drugs, the law is just way too far behind,” Kile noted.

The Board voted 1-6 on a request from Magistrate Karen Willing to pay for e-fax activation on her phone and the $18 per month fee.  While Commissioners agreed that the ability to do the Magistrate’s job would be made more efficient by e-fax capability, the standard rate the County pays for other phones used by the courts is $15 per month.  Commissioner Jerry Burger cast the lone “yes” vote.  Many Commissioners thought that, by turning down Willing’s request, she would automatically receive the $15 per month allotted to the previous Magistrate for phone usage.  After consideration during the Committee of the Whole, the Board voted 6-1 to send the matter of Willing receiving the $15 phone stipend before the full Board at their next meeting.  Commissioner Karen Lipovsky cast the dissenting vote.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Clare County’s BOC:

*approved a Prosecutor’s Office budget adjustment in the amount of $500 for money received from PAAM for Victim Rights Week materials.

*approved a Community Development budget adjustment in the amount of $449,100 to set up for escrow accounts.

*approved the contract agreement between the Board of Commissioners and Lapham Associates for Remonumentation Services, with the cost not to exceed $27,603 and Board Chair to sign.

*approved an Administrator’s budget adjustment to increase revenue and increase expenses in the amount of $64,811.49.

*met new District Court Magistrate, Karen Willing.

*met Keith Wale, the new director of United Rescue Ambulance Service.

*heard from Administrator Byard that Veterans Services Director Renee Haley reported that last weekend’s Freedom Walk raised $7,000.

*discussed the problem of decreasing space for records storage.

*discussed the need for a more comprehensive and detailed purchasing policy.

*discussed the lapse in policy wherein some department heads had filled vacant positions without permission from the Board, and that new hires have not been fully filling out forms for employment and payroll.

*discussed internet access for non-employees, and it was agreed that the Board would decide who will be allowed to have what kind of access to the County’s system.

*was told by Treasurer Jenny Beemer-Fritzinger that all local units should have received settlement checks, which her office sent out last week.