PI Commissioners support revenue sharing plan

ROGERS CITY – Presque Isle County could get around $144,000 from the state in 2015 if Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal to fully fund county revenue sharing is approved.

County Commissioners OK’d a resolution at their meeting Wednesday supporting Snyder’s idea. They also approved another one supporting a bill that would require the state to reimburse local tax collecting units for lost money due to disabled veterans claiming exemptions from property taxes.

Both could make a difference for the county as it considers its financial future. Commissioners recently met to discuss ways to cut back on non-mandated services and other costs in light of the depletion of one funding source: its revenue sharing reserve fund.

Commissioner board Vice Chairman Robert Schell said in January that the county has relied on this fund to balance its budget for several years, typically taking around $250,000 to $300,000 a year. The county will take $240,000 out this year, leaving just $140,000 left. After that, it’s gone.

Carl Altman, commissioner board chairman, said this fund was built up using a special tax collection the state allowed the county to make. This happened in 2004, when the state required counties to create the reserve fund, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury website. It was intended to replace revenue sharing payments from the state, at least for a time; Presque Isle County is set to receive revenue sharing again in 2015.

The county’s auditor has told commissioners they need to consider ways to cut back on non-mandated, county-funded services when the tax reserve fund runs out, Altman said.

“But if this revenue sharing falls back in line when we’re supposed to be reinstated, it could mean that we don’t have to take as close a look at cutting some of these non-mandated services,” he said.

The resolution states Snyder’s proposal brings revenue sharing payments in line with the agreed-upon amounts for fiscal year 2005. While it’s being referred to as “100 percent full funding,” it’s still not as much as the county received in past years, Altman said.

“It’s still cut back to when Gov. Granholm was governor, so even though they’re saying 100 percent funding, it’s not what it originally was when it was taken away,” he said.

The proposal would cost the state $211,134,899 for the fiscal year, according to the resolution. Counties use their share of this money to pay for state-mandated services like courts, jails and elections. It’ll also help those that have been hit by falling property values.

The second resolution is in support of House Bill 5215, introduced by state Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City. It would require the state to reimburse local tax collecting units for any lost revenue from disabled, honorably discharged veterans who claim an exemption from their property taxes under a 2013 law. Their widows can claim the exemption as well, and veterans who have been rated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as individually unemployable also qualify, according to the law.

In Presque Isle County, that’s about 60 people, not including spouses, according to numbers obtained by County Treasurer Bridget LaLonde. The resolution states that while the county approves of the state’s efforts to help veterans, the law results in a loss of revenue for local governments. LaLonde received an estimate from former county Veterans Counselor Phil Presnell that the county could lose $60,000 to $75,000.

The bill was introduced Jan. 8 and referred to the Committee on Tax Policy on the same day, according to the state Legislature website. Snyder made his budget proposal Feb. 5, and the state Senate Appropriations Committee discussed a Fiscal Agency overview of it at a meeting Wednesday.

In other business:

the county may consider no longer paying for recycling services, Commissioner Mike Darga said. He told other commissioners he’ll be discussing the county’s contracts with its recycler and hauler, and Altman noted he’s seen lots of garbage in and around the recycling bin at Hawks.

commissioners approved a budget amendment adding $3,500 to the county’s courthouse and grounds fund for snow removal, and $5,000 to its resource recovery fund.

commissioners approved keeping the county’s 911 operational surcharge at 42 cents.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.