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Michigan budget cuts felt locally

County board addresses potential loss

Bill Nordeen, commissioner, Marquette County Board

MARQUETTE — A message to the state Legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to “Go back to the table and solve all financial issues regarding funding for local government entities including all 83 counties in Michigan” was approved by the Marquette County Board of Commissioners at its regular meeting Monday.

Commissioner Joe Derocha was absent from the meeting.

The message is regarding the governor’s line item vetoes to the 2020 Michigan budget totaling nearly $1 billion.

A letter was to be drafted by County Administrator Scott Erbisch and Chairman Gerald Corkin outlining the loss for each of the counties in the Upper Peninsula if the budget is not resolved.

Total funding lost for U.P. counties is more than $6.84 million.

Corkin stated that Alger and Baraga counties, which stand to lose about $620,000 and $747,000, respectively, are “little counties that are hardly keeping their doors open now.” He said Marquette’s loss of $817,000 is comparable to the job loss of roughly 10 people.

The proposed Marquette County Budget for Fiscal Year 2020 includes a recommendation for a one-time use of $400,000 in reserve funds to balance the budget. The additional from the budget “will be significant and will require employee layoffs and elimination and reduction of programs and services,” a previous letter sent to Rep. Sara Cambensy from the board states.

Erbisch and Corkin have since met with Cambensy and Sen. Ed McBroom, who are supportive of supplemental legislation to fix the budget, Corkin said.

Commissioner Bill Nordeen said it seems as if the parties are using local units of government to fight for political funding.

“It reminds me of parents fighting over the kids. That’s what they’re doing here,” Nordeen said. “They need to stop doing that because it’s having a negative impact on us.”

While the budget seems to be a political game between the parties, it’s a serious matter for those who live and work in the state, Corkin added.

After talking with ambassadors of both parties, Erbisch found lack of trust to be the point of contention, he said.

“It’s really an interest on both parties to get something done. They’re just showing a lack of trust at this time with each other and I think they need to find a way to get beyond that and find a way that brings comfort to them, or both sit down and know that what they’re working on will get resolved,” Erbisch said. “That was a real big thing I took away from this, is there’s a real lack of trust from both parties at this time trying to work through this and hopefully they’ll be able to get somewhere. It will be difficult otherwise.”

Funding lost by each county is as follows:

≤ Alger — $619,625

≤ Baraga — $746,724

≤ Chippewa — $220,473

≤ Delta — $318,000

≤ Dickinson — $584,750

≤ Gogebic — $390,361

≤ Houghton — $226,500

≤ Iron — $302,00

≤ Keweenaw — $116,777

≤ Luce — $676,000

≤ Mackinaw — $511,136

≤ Marquette — $817,000

≤ Menominee — $427,667

≤ Ontonagon — $238,000

≤ Schoolcraft — $648,000

The board unanimously approved to send a letter that specifically states the effect of the budget on U.P. counties to legislators.

The board also approved a resolution in support of reinstating the 25th Circuit Court judicial position during its meeting.

Previously, the county was assigned two circuit court judges until legislation passed in 2011 which led to the reduction of judges in 2016. Since then, felony filings have increased nearly 40% and the caseload has become difficult to process with just one circuit court judge, the resolution states. Marquette County currently has four judges and is responsible for 23% of the total caseload in the U.P. To reduce the caseload and allow the courts to begin programs such as the proposed Veterans Treatment Court, commissioners approved the resolution for legislation to restore the circuit court position.

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is tcarey@miningjournal.net.