No staff, service cuts in Marquette County spending package

Scott Erbisch, administrator, Marquette County

MARQUETTE — While Marquette County is working with a reduced budget for 2019, officials aren’t anticipating any reductions in staff or services.

The Marquette County Board of Commissioners held its fiscal year 2019 budget work session Monday and reviewed the recommended budget, which was prepared by county staff and is “balanced and is responsive to board policies and established priorities,” board documents state.

At around $25.8 million, the county’s proposed budget for 2019 is about $250,000 less than 2018’s budget, according to board documents. This will be the second year in a row that the county’s budget has shrunk, commissioners said.

“It’s a reduction from last year’s budget already. You’re looking at about $250,000 less and, again, it’s trying to work within the revenues that we have,” Marquette County Administrator Scott Erbisch said.

The anticipated reduction in county revenues for 2019 is due to a number of factors, Erbisch said.

The county is estimated to see a reduction of $600,000 in specific ore tax revenue from 2018 to 2019. The estimated revenues for next year’s budget are about $2 million less than 2013, county documents state.

Furthermore, Erbisch said the county’s projected tax revenue for 2019 “remains relatively flat” at 1.5 percent, noting “it’s not jumping at a high pace and we don’t anticipate that any time soon.”

However, there are no plans to cut services or staff, Erbisch said, noting that he commends the county’s departments and board for previous decisions that have allowed the county to work within this reduced budget.

“If we start looking at some of the things you’ve done with health insurance, which you’ve done by going to hard caps, by allowing us to look at the extension of the (Municipal Employees’ Retirement System), these things were critical in allowing us to be positioned in a spot where we’re not cutting critical services,” Erbisch said.

Erbisch said joining the Western Michigan Health Insurance Pool has helped stabilize the county’s costs for providing insurance to staff.

“That’s really helped us,” he said. “What we were hoping for is just what’s happened, a little bit more stability with those rate increase.”

Budget recommendations also include a proposed 3.4 percent increase in the water and sanitary sewer fee schedule at the Sawyer Water Department. According to board documents, the combined water and wastewater rate would be $18.20 per 1,000 gallons, with the leachate fee increased to 3 cents per gallon. All other rates will remain the same.

Three vehicle replacements for the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office are also in the budget, officials said, with two vehicles for the road patrol and one sheriff vehicle. Additional staff had been requested by the sheriff’s office and jail, but these positions were not included in the budget, Erbisch said.

Board Chairman Gerald Corkin said he was glad to see county staff was able to balance the 2019 budget without reducing existing county staff or services.

“It’s an excellent budget, especially with the $253,000 reduction from last year,” Corkin said. “That’s hard to do with maintaining the same basic services.”

Erbisch said the county board and county staff wants to ensure taxpayer’s money is used “appropriately and wisely.”

“We can never say enough about department heads and elected officials who are very conscientious with their budgets, as well as the board’s conservative nature toward budgeting,” Erbisch said.

The county’s complete budget is available in the Marquette County Clerk’s Office for review. A formal decision is expected to be made about the county’s recommended budget at an Oct. 16 board meeting.