Alpena County ponders layoff, more to save money

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz The Alpena County Board of Commissioners reviews a proposed 2024 budget during a special budget workshop on Tuesday. During the meeting, commissioners discussed laying off a police officer and selling some county-owned property.

ALPENA — The Alpena County Board of Commissioners could consider laying off a sheriff’s deputy, leaving a maintenance position unfilled, and selling county-owned property to help reduce a large projected budget deficit for 2024.

At a special budget workshop on Tuesday, the board combed through funds and proposed budgets for county agencies that don’t rely on the general fund, but, near the end of the meeting, County Administrator Mary Catherine Hannah told the commissioners she found some measures that could shrink the projected budget shortfall, which is estimated at about $2.3 million at the end of 2024.

None of the proposed cuts were implemented by the board on Tuesday.

Hannah shared a few of her ideas that the board could consider to narrow the gap between expected revenues and expenses, which include the reduction of police staff, not filling a maintenance job, and selling parcels of property the county owns at the intersection of M-32 and Airport Road.

To cover the cost of a county deputy on the Huron Undercover Narcotics Team, the board transferred $100,000 into the general fund from the county’s account that contains money the county received from a settlement with pharmaceutical companies.

“I put pen to paper and, with the adjustments made today, I got it down to a budgeted deficit of $891,000,” Hannah said. “It’s not pretty, but I did get there. It is a potential course of action.”

Another way to help lower the shortfall, Hannah said, would be to allow District Health Department No. 4 to not pay its $104,000 in rent to the county next year and subtract that amount from the nearly $300,000 requested by the Health Department. That would trim another $100,000 from the red number on the expense side of the budget.

Hannah said there is still much work to do during the budget process.

She said that, before the next workshop, the county needs to see how many employees opt into the county’s health insurance program so that can be figured into the expanses, and other cuts will likely be on the table.

Earlier in the budget process, Hannah proposed an up-to-2.5-mill property tax increase for public safety, which would provide relief to the general fund and ensure that there is sufficient funds to maintain current staffing and service levels at the county Sheriff’s Office.

The tax, which would rake in about $2.8 million in additional revenue annually, would also be used for the courts, emergency management services, and other public safety needs.

A 2.5-mill tax would cost the owner of a $100,000 house about $125 annually.

If the commissioners decide to move forward with the tax increase request, it would likely be on the ballot during a special election in May.

The county’s budget year runs from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.


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