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Schoolcraft Village Council Authorizes a Balanced Budget

By Deb Christiansen

Although revenues are declining and expenses are increasing, the Schoolcraft Village Council was able to pass a balanced budget for the fiscal year which began March 1. To accomplish this, it was necessary to move $40,054 from the fund balance, said Village Manager Cheri Lutz. “We have a healthy fund balance so the $853,254 general fund didn’t have to take a hit.” The current property tax rate is 15.85 mills, $15.85 per $1,000 taxable valuation.

The village established a finance committee last year, which is really beneficial in establishing the budget, Lutz said. Employee pay raises are consistent with the pay schedule established in 2015. Village President Keith Gunnett said “in sitting in on those meetings it’s difficult to find any place to trim the budget at this point in time.” Gunnett also complimented the hard work the employees of the village have done.

The street fund revenue comes primarily from the state of Michigan and totals a little over $250,000. The street project for the coming year will be redoing Angel Drive by the Chem Link building. The water fund is balanced, with revenues in excess of $60,000. There has been a cutback in usage because the biggest consumers of water were Bud’s Bar and Schnauzer’s, which have closed. The total budget, including the street and water funds, is $1,485, 857. The Household Hazardous Waste program through the county was funded at $1,050 and South County Community Services received $3,500.

Village President Keith Gunnett informed the council that there will be no petitions circulated locally about the proposed sanitary sewer because the issue will be done through the Kalamazoo County Drain Commission. A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for late April or May. All water users will receive a postcard about the hearing. The public hearing will be the one and only time viewpoints can be expressed about the sewer,” Gunnett said.

Lutz is addressing sewer questions on Facebook. Currently, she collects questions and includes her answers on Facebook on Thursdays each week. The village website receives a feed from the village’s Facebook page and can be viewed without being on Facebook.

County Commissioner John Gisler said there is a provision for hardship assistance to residents for a proposed sewer project, but in his experience only one person qualified. To qualify for a grant the user must have no money or assets. Village Manager Cheri Lutz said she wrote to the USDA to inquire about getting a grant. The USDA said that it couldn’t answer without an application, but generally, the project is funded with low interest loans or a loan-grant combination. Village President Keith Gunnett presented an unofficial opinion by tax assessor Kevin O’Toole. “Does having sewer change the state equalized valuation of a property? Answer: No, for the most part.” The only time there is an increase in valuation – and it’s marginal – is for lakefront property.

Deb Droppers presented a proposed event for the summer months from the Kalamazoo Experiential Learning Center called “Food Truck on the Road.” This is a family focused celebration that will bring food trucks to Burch Park on three Tuesdays during June, July, and August from 5-8 p.m. A motion was passed to allow the events.

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