December 16, 2018

County budget hearing set for Dec. 29


ARENAC COUNTY — The county board of commissioners is scheduled to vote on its 2018 budget during a public hearing Friday, Dec. 29, at 1:30 p.m.

Board Chairman Ron Branda said the preliminary revenue for next year is $5.381 million, which is about 5 percent, or $260,000, lower than the revenue for 2017.

“A lot of that leads to just the equalization values of properties being down slightly,” he said. “Everything’s been trending down slightly.”

Branda said expenses still need to be trimmed before the budget is passed later this month. He said projected expenditures are around $5.6 million, leaving around $200,000 to be cut.

“The goal is not to spend any more than what we project coming in,” he said. “That can change through the year.”

In the fall, with union negotiations looming between the county and its seven bargaining units, the board opted to approve an 80-20 contribution plan in lieu of the hard cap, which it had implemented every year since the state mandated counties to do so in 2011. However, Branda said the county’s insurance agent, Austin Benefits, was able to find a different plan, allowing the county to revert back to the hard cap contribution plan.

“(Austin Benefits) researched and tried to find us the best bargain they can,” he said. “They found us a couple of policies with a little higher deductible, but for the younger (employees) that doesn’t matter as much.”

“The higher deductibles help keep the premiums lower,” Branda said. “It helps the county and it helps the employee, but like any insurance, it’s a crapshoot.”

According to Branda, employee unions have been more approving of the change back to the hard cap, after many county employees spoke out against the 80-20 plan.

As far as additional items affecting budget projections, Branda said there are few changes on the horizon.

“Everything is pretty much status quo,” he said. “It’s just a matter of figuring out where we’re going to save a few bucks in every department.”

“There’s no major monies coming in or any major mandates coming down that will cost us a lot more,” Branda said.


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