(Iron Mountain - December 27, 2017) - The Dickinson County Board of
Commissioners on Tuesday night approved a 9.2 million dollar operating budget
for 2018. The budget resolution was approved unanimously following a public
hearing during which there was zero public input. The single person in the
audience, possibly due to the cold weather, was Iron Mountain Mayor Dale
The County will continue to levy the same property tax
assessment as in 2017, a total of 6.14 mils, or $6.14 per $1,000 of taxable
The budget is the culmination of several months of
closed-door negotiations with representatives of the unions representing County
employees. Those negotiations were only finalized within the past two weeks.
Payroll and employee benefits will make up nearly 75% of the expenditures, with
only minor appropriations for capital improvements or repairs.
staffing levels will remain static in most areas, the budget does allow for the
hiring of three additional full-time corrections officers by the Sheriff's
department. Theoretically, this will result in little or no increase in spending
since it will result in less part-time hiring and will cut back substantially in
the amount of overtime payments.
While the operating budget is balanced,
the County will dig into reserves to repay nearly $400,000 to Verso, as the
result of that company's successful appeals to the State Tax Tribunal which
resulted in drastic decreases to the taxable value of their pulp and paper plant
located near Quinnesec. Those appeals have also resulted in reductions for
Breitung Township and for the Breitung Township School System. The downward
pressure on assessed value of properties is likely to continue, as more
industrial and retail companies, feeling that they are being overtaxed, file
appeals before the Tax Tribunal. Several attempts to "rein in" the Tax Tribunal
have failed in the State Legislature.
Despite this, the County will still
maintain a fairly healthy cash reserve of nearly one-fifth of Itís annual
The difficult job of balancing the budget was aided by healthy
payments from the State of Michigan. These payments total more than
one-point-one million dollars and comprise State revenue sharing funds as well
as payments to reimburse the County for reductions previously paid on personal
property, a tax which is being phased out.
More than 1.1 million dollars
will be paid to the Municipal Employees Retirement System. While this amount is
projected to increase in the immediate years, it is expected to decrease over
time as the result of changes adopted by the Board over the past several
decades. These changes include the purchase of higher deductible plans, and the
elimination of County-funded retirement medical plans for more recently hired
employees. It will take several decades however, for the latter to have any
significant impact on the budget.
The new budget goes into effect on
In related actions, the Board approved resolutions covering
working agreements with four employee groups: The Police Officer Labor Council
covering the Sheriff's road patrol and dispatch center, The Police Officer Labor
Council covering correctional officers within the Sheriff's Department, The
Police Officer Labor Council covering the command officers within the Sheriff's
Department, and finally, the union contract between the County and the
Government Employees Labor Council.