County to start 2018 with deficit

ALPENA — The Alpena County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing and adopted the 2018 fiscal budget Tuesday. Like 2017, the county will begin the year with a budget deficit, which will be $566,408.

Treasurer Kim Ludlow said at the beginning of this year the county had a $405,854 deficit, but lowered it significantly as the year moved along. She said she expects the gap between expenses and revenues to narrow next year and have a smaller deficit, or none at all.

Ludlow said throughout the course of the year the county was able to shave down the deficit to $74,701, but it would have had a surplus if money wasn’t transferred into other funds for future use.

She said $150,000 was moved to the buildings and grounds fund, $100,000 to the equipment fund and $15,000 to Plaza Pool. All funds that need bolstering.

“These were not budgeted for and if we would had not done that we would have had a surplus,” Ludlow said.

Ludlow said the fund balance is healthy and has $4.3 million in unrestricted funds.

In order to end next year with a surplus or even, Ludlow said a lot of things would have to fall into place just right. She said this year there were a lot of budgeted expenses that never came to be and that may not be the case in 2018. She said the commissioners also budgeted more revenue from the state, which if not received could increase the deficit.

“I’m considerably more cautious because they have some things budgeted for that they didn’t for the last couple years,” she said. “They budgeted $100,000 from the state’s repayment for personal property tax, which is in line with what we should get but it is still a question mark.”

Ludlow said for the last 10 years the county has been taking 100 percent of the net revenue from the tax revolving fund to balance the budget, but this year only used 50 percent.

“I commend them for that, but by doing so that is also $150,000 less revenue,” she said.

Ludlow said the county has done a good job of keeping the budget spending in check and limiting spending when it can. She said there are a few places cuts could be needed to trim the deficit.

“There is not a lot of fluff and the commissioners have worked hard over the decade to trim fat any place they could and that is what has contributed to us having a solid fund balance to work withl,” Ludlow said.

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