County entertains slashing department budgets

August 30, 2019

By Pat Maurer

Facing a $300,000 deficit this year, the Clare County Commission has come up with a plan to balance the budget for 2019-2020.

At the special board meeting, held after the regular meeting August 21st, they outlined the measures so far that will, County Administrator Tracy Byard said, “start heading us in the right direction and allow us to increase our fund balance.”

Budget cuts developed so far resulted from a Commission request asking all departments in the county to cut back to 2017 levels when the budget was balanced. The 2017 county budget was $12,006,379. They also eliminated County Parks and Rec funding.

With the cuts outlined so far, this year’s budget is $12,346,656 without additions or further reductions before the budget is adopted next month. There will be a budget appeals meeting on September 11 and the budget will be adopted September 18.

“Not all departments were able to cut their budgets back to 2017 levels,” Byard said.

The board approved eliminating the funding for Parks and Recreation, which will save $14,056. The Commission is also looking at cutting the Middle Michigan Development Corporation, which will save about $12,500.
Byard said that although they were unable to cut back to 2017 levels, the Sheriff’s Office was able to cut approximately $400,000 from their budget.
Any more than that would mean cutting positions that would cause a reduction in the income levels from that department, she added.

The Prosecuting Attorney’s office will not be replacing an employee that will retire next April, giving the budget another $12,500 boost, but not until next spring.

The Commission is still in contract negotiations with the Courts.
Settling their contract, which expired in 2010, will “save a significant amount,” Byard added because, due to a clause in the old contract, the Court employees have not been required to pay for the excess health insurance costs over the ‘hard cap’ that the rest of the county employees must pay.
“Earlier this year after delaying negotiations for several years, the Courts said they would be opening their contract. When a new contract is approved, the hard caps will take effect,” Byard added.

She said the county pays health insurance costs up to the hard cap, which is set by the State of Michigan at $6,685.17 for a single person, $13,980.75 for two people and $18,232.31 for a family. The mandated hard caps took affect at the beginning of January.

Employees are responsible for the amounts over the hard caps.
Byard said she isn’t sure exactly how much money that will save the County. She said 23 people are employed by the Courts and it depends on each employee’s type of insurance.

An additional $140,000 in savings will come because the Commission has changed the “Carve Out” for prescriptions. They will no longer use the Blue Cross – Blue Care Network for those prescription insurance rates and lowering that cost, which will now be handled by 44 North, the County’s health administrator.

Another change will reduce Michigan State University Extension’s budget back to the 2017 level. It eliminates an additional amount that was added last year to MSU Extension to provide a full-time 4-H Coordinator. The 4-H Coordinator will now be part-time, saving $17,624 in that department’s budget.

Whether the budget remains balanced depends on what happens on September 11, when the Budget Appeals meeting is held.

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