Schoolcraft village sets 2023 budget

By Rob Peterson

Schoolcraft is using approximately $58,000 from the village fund balance to balance its 2023-2024 fiscal year budget.

The village has planned to dip into the fund balance for the last several years, but each year it ended up with a balanced budget.

“We always anticipate using the fund balance, but we carefully manage our expenses throughout the year so that we can balance the budget,” said village Manager Cheri Lutz. “We overbudget for some items because we don’t know what things will cost.”

The 2023 budget estimates total revenue of $966,874 in the general fund, approximately $16,000 higher than this past fiscal year. The increase is primarily due to the expected increased property tax revenues.

The primary expense of the general fund is the police department, which costs $391,000 to operate.

Besides the general fund, the council oversees budgets for water service, street maintenance, equipment purchases, and the downtown development authority. All told, the village spends just over $1.5 million each fiscal year.

There is a new person who will be assisting Lutz with balancing the budget this year. Carin Louis is the new finance director for the village, taking over for Tammi Youngs, who retired at the end of February.

Todd Carlin, the village representative for the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority, reported that the authority needs to purchase a tanker truck. However, both Schoolcraft and Vicksburg Villages have indicated that they will not approve the purchase due to the lack of details provided to date.

The plan, as reported by Carlin, is to borrow money to pay for the tanker, which will cost $861,000 and take nearly two years to arrive.

The Schoolcraft Council pushed back.

“The failure of the fire authority to plan for the future should not be put back on the member municipalities,” said councilmember Kathy Mastenbrook. “What happens if a member leaves the authority? Do the remaining members take up the slack?”

In other discussion, the council considered whether to fine residents who don’t comply with the parking ordinance. “We are taking time away from our other work,” said Lutz. The village has stepped up enforcement of an ordinance prohibiting parking in the right of way.

“If people are trying to comply, that’s one thing,” responded councilmember Michael Rochholz. “The fines come in when residents are not even trying to comply.”

Lutz again reported that she has not heard from the county about the funds through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) requested by the village.

The county received more than $51 million in ARPA, intended to assist in recovery efforts from impacts of the pandemic. About half was allocated to Kalamazoo local government and organizations. Schoolcraft asked for $14 million, including $10.5 million to install sewer lines and $3.5 million to replace lead-based water lines, which is an unfunded mandate from the state of Michigan. It received no money.

Representative Wendy Maizer and county board chair John Taylor were both invited to the second meeting in February. Neither responded to the request.

Amy Clark, owner of Schnauzers, has until February 16 to respond to building violations. A formal hearing has taken place and the owner has 90 days to comply. The village’s recourse would be to eventually condemn the building, though Lutz has indicated that this is a last resort.

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