Crawford County officials sending letter to address stalemate over state budget cuts
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Crawford County officials have decided to weigh in on the state budget dispute between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Republican led legislature.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners at its regular monthly meeting held on Thursday, August 25, directed County Administrator Paul Compo to write a letter to state lawmakers representing the county, explaining how state budget cuts could have a potential impact on the county’s budget.
Whitmer used line items vetoes to cut $1 billion from the $59.9 billion budget, which started on October 1. She exercised her right to veto programs in protest to get more money to fix state roads and bridges.
For Crawford County, the cuts mean the county could lose $547,405, which is nine percent of the county’s $5.6 million budget.
That includes non-payment of $338,500 in swamp taxes from the state, which are paid through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The tax has been collected since 1934 after lumber barons left land after the trees were harvested and it reverted back to the state for non-payment of taxes.
The next big hit for the county would be non-payment of Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) for millages levied on state land to support local services. The cuts would impact the county by a loss of $93,920. The taxes go the county’s general fund, road patrol, road commission, commission on aging, Grayling Recreation Authority, transportation authority, library, and veterans administration.
The Crawford County Sheriff’s Office would take a big hit from the state budget ax, with a loss of $37,250 for jail reimbursement and a $31,356 for secondary road patrols.
The county child care fund would be cut by $42,000, and it would get $5,000 less to pay for court appointed guardians.
The Michigan Association of Counties, which represents all 83 counties in the state when it comes to making policies and passing law, requested Compo compile the impact the budget debacle would have on the county.
Compo said the county would be forced to lay off employees as soon as January if the funding is not restored.
“We could do the cuts, which are going to drastic and significant, or we can trust they’re going to work this out, which neither one is appealing,” Compo said.
Crawford County Treasurer Kate Wagner attended a meeting in Lansing to address the budget shortfalls. She said funds for PILT and swamp taxes will be on winter tax bills going to the state, which will be mailed December 1.
“I don’t think they see the urgency that we do to get a resolution to the problem,” Wagner said.
Compo said that the county could use some of its fund balance as a contingency in hopes that matters will be addressed in Lansing.
Shelly Pinkelman, chairwoman of the Crawford County Board of Commissioners, said that would put the county back in the situation it was in 1998, when midnight patrols were cut along with other budget cuts.
“This would set us back 20 years,” she said.
Compo will send the letters to Whitmer, Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, and Sen. Kurt Vander Wall, R-Ludington.
If the budget cuts stand, Compo vowed that county residents will be well informed about the inaction of state elected officials.
“We’re going to lay the accountability for it where it needs to be laid,” he said.