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County will watch budget closely

A lot will change in these next several weeks as Alpena County commissioners roll up their sleeves and fine-tune a budget with their department heads and county Treasurer Kim Ludlow.

Ludlow has presented commissioners with the initial requests from department heads, compared to her projected expenses and liabilities. Meetings to examine the budget further began this week.

Were nothing to change, the county would face a $1.4 million deficit by the end of 2020.

Obviously, that is not going to happen.

One of the growing problems in this budget, Ludlow shared with reporter Steve Schulwitz for a recent story, is the rising costs for pensions.

Last year, the county paid $484,113 toward its unfunded pension liabilities, but officials with the Municipal Employees Retirement System of Michigan say the county should pay about $1 million for the next decade to catch up.

Ludlow has projected the county paying $933,354 in the new year.

Another pitfall is the loss of revenue from the county Sheriff’s Office’s contract it had to provide security at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center. The county lost that contract to a lower bidder earlier this year.

It is hard to suddenly lose something like that, when the county had become accustomed to enjoying the revenue it brought in.

Again, a lot will change in the days ahead as various options are explored and new solutions are considered.

Whatever is hammered out, Ludlow says she is going to need to keep a close watch over spending again in the new fiscal year — and we know she will.

(THE ALPENA COUNTY)