By Travis Smola
The Schoolcraft Village Council approved budget cuts totaling $57,474 for the rest of the fiscal year ending in March.
Village President Keith Gunnett said “The cuts were because our village has gotten a letter from the state of Michigan for the last four years requesting a corrective action plan due to the spending down of our general fund balance.”
He said the cuts are vital for keeping everything running smoothly. “That still doesn’t get us to a zero balanced budget,” he said. “It still looks like we’re going to be taking money out of fund balance to balance it in the end.”
Effective with the vote, the village will reduce police coverage from 24 hours a day, seven days a week to 20 hours a day for seven days a week until March. This will save $8,900.
Schoolcraft will also postpone codification of ordinances until March. This move saves $20,000. It will reduce equipment rental rates by 80 percent retroactively back to March 1 of this year to save another $12,300. This prompted a request for further explanation from Trustee Todd Carlin.
The village will also hold off on filling two positions until at least March. Postponing filling a vacant Department of Public Works position will save $15,000. The other, a municipal complex cleaning position, will save about $1,300. Gunnett said the staff agreed to take on the tasks of the municipal complex in-house for the time being.
Gunnett said they didn’t like taking these cuts, but it was something that had to be done. “We’re now to the point we’re going to be cutting into positions or pay or cutting services to the public, which you don’t want to do,” Gunnett said. “We can’t keep living by digging into our fund balance every year to balance our budget.”
Trustee Kathy Mastenbrook pointed out this wasn’t the only thing the village was doing about the budget. “This is not the only cuts we’ve made,” she said. “Staff has taken no increases. The council has taken a reduction of pay. There have been other avenues we’ve pursued besides this that were not enough. That’s why this is being done in addition.”
Tammi Youngs, village finance director, noted during the meeting that they have looked at the possibility of using a Headlee override. The Headlee Amendment of 1978 requires voter approval for a local tax increase. Youngs said an override would raise the millage from 14.7 to 17 mills, an additional $2.30 per $1,000 taxable valuation, and bring in an additional $87,000 a year.
Michael Rochholz noted that’s an option to consider, saying it would bring taxes in the village back to where they are supposed to be. “We’re just under where we were tax revenue-wise before the recession,” Rochholz said. He said they need to watch the money and make sure they don’t overspend. Rochholz also believes they will probably need to plan more revenues and cuts for the near future.
The Headlee Amendment requires local tax rates to be reduced below authorized levels if the taxing unit’s total valuation increases faster than the rate of inflation. Voters may override the reduction.
Through it all, Gunnett stressed that even though they’re making cuts, the village is not in a dire situation. “The village is not in any jeopardy of our fund balance being so low that we can’t function,” Gunnett added. “We’re far and above what the state requires for a minimal fund balance.”