Jail millage might not be enough to cover all expenses

ALPENA — If a new jail is built in Alpena County and eight new correction officers are hired the one mill being asked for may not be enough to cover the annual bond payment and cost of the new employees.

During a jail committee meeting Friday, a bond payment schedule showed that after the bond payment is made, the balance likely would fall short of the needed amount to cover officers’ salaries, benefits and other costs.

Alpena City Manager Greg Sundin said he was concerned about the issue because in a pamphlet that is slated to go out to voters, it states the remaining funds after the debt payment would cover “some” of the cost. He said the flyer should specify where the money to cover the rest of the cost of the new employees would come from.

Sundin said for duration of the 20-year millage, the county would bring in about $10.8 million and $4.14 million for operations and employment. He said the average amount of proceeds afterward would be about $207,000 a year. A figure he said likely would not cover the cost of that many employees. Sundin said during the first year there would be $213,000 left after the bond payment, but the following year it slides to $141,000. He said it fluctuates up and down slightly over the next 18 years and reaches it highest amount of $275,000 in the final year.

According to Sheriff Steve Kieliszewski it will cost over $400,000 a year to pay for eight new officers.

“I think for the taxpayers it is important to tell them where the rest of the money is going to come from because when this began it was all going to be paid out of the millage, “ Sundin said. “The only place I can see that money coming from is the general fund of the county. I just hope all of the commissioners are aware of this.”

Commissioner Brad McRoberts, who was at the meeting, said the commissioners are aware that after the 20-year millage expires the county would have to cover the full cost of the increased staff, but there has been little talk about supplementing the millage until it is done.

Commissioner Cam Habermehl said future growth in Alpena could increase the amount of money the millage brings in and that will help to make up any balance there is. He said he isn’t sure there will be a shortfall at all.

“The last I heard was that the millage was going to cover everything,” Habermehl said.

Sundin said something else the county should consider is placing funds aside to cover the costs of future repairs and maintenance of the jail after the millage expires. He said when the building is 20 years old, there likely will need to be work done, similar to what the city is doing to the Public Safety Building.

“If you have to help cover the cost of the employees and pay for things at the building, the money is going to add up quickly,” Sundin said. “The fund balance might be good now, but that can disappear in a hurry.”

Habermehl said the exact cost of the jail and the number of employees that will be needed won’t be known until after the election. He said there are no design plans made yet and there won’t be until the county sees if the millage passes. Habermehl said adding staff at the jail is something he supports and is overdue.

“We have been operating shorthanded for a long time,” he said. “When it is done maybe we can hire four, maybe three. We don’t know yet how many people it will really take to run it.”

The cost of the millage for a taxpayer will be about $50 on a home with a taxable value of $50,000. It the funding is approved, it would be built near the airport on M-32. Voters will decide the fate of the new jail during the Nov. 7 election.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.