Houghton County OKs 2024 budget

HOUGHTON — Houghton County adopted a budget with $11.3 million in general funding spending for the 2024 fiscal year at a special meeting Thursday.

The general fund budget carried an $80,383 surplus, bringing the county’s projected fund balance at the end of September 2024 to $4,203,699.

In a budget summary prepared for the board, County Administrator Ben Larson and Chief Financial Officer Becky Ylitalo outlined several new items in the budget. One was the closing of the county work camp, which the board also unanimously approved Thursday on Larson’s recommendation. County spending on the work camp in the coming fiscal year will drop from $408,532 to $100,000 under the approved budget.

Other new items include funding for a cybersecurity plan in the information technology budget, which had been funded through American Rescue Plan Act funding last year. Support for the Houghton County Fair also increased.

Larson is also restarting the county’s Enduring Gifts Fund, which he said could open up a new revenue stream for the county. The memo cited the recent example of residents and businesses buying Stop Sticks for all sheriff’s deputy vehicles; other potential ideas include estate gifts and naming rights for county properties and facilities.

The memo to the board also outlined other large items and longer-term priorities. With the resignation of Prosecutor Paul LaBine, the county would need to address both that position and support staff, Larson and Ylitalo said.

The prosecutor office’s budget for 2024 increased from $426,845 to $441,572, primarily in spending on miscellaneous services and charges. The county had approved funding for two positions under the prosecutor last year, but has been unable to fill them. In an interview after his resignation, LaBine said the county would need to look at salary increases.

The county is also continuing to plan for the relocation of some county functions to the current First Apostolic Lutheran Church site on Sharon Avenue. While a proposed jail would require a new millage, relocation for other functions such as the district court could happen in 2025 or 2026. A new terminal for the Houghton County Memorial Airport is also in the planning stages, the memo said.

“The population increases are another item to be mindful of, and the demand for local housing and ever increasing numbers of tourists and visitors continues to make Houghton County a place that people want to be,” the memo said, noting the record permitting levels for the county building department.

Also Thursday, the board unanimously passed a resolution opposing any legislation that would preempt local control over wind and solar installations. In August, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed moving the permitting authority for larger installations to the Michigan Public Service Commission as part of a push to boost clean energy production in the state. Bills have yet to be introduced in the state legislature.


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