STANTON, Mich. (WOOD) — Montcalm County has to cut about $1.5 million from expenses to get back in budget, County Commissioner Pat Carr says.
A state audit shows the county has been over budget for at least the last two years. Commissioners are now considering shutting down some parks and even animal control to close the deficit. The county says it doesn’t have a choice.
The county is also in the process of hiring a new controller, Bob Clinginpeel, to help to get the finances back in order. Clinginpeel is also the director of the county’s Commission on Aging. He’ll work both jobs as another way to save money.
So how did the county get to this point in the first place?
“Revenue sharing. Some of that that’s happened statewide. It’s all municipalities are going through that problem,” Clinginpeel said. “Rural counties, I think, are hit harder. They don’t have as big a tax base.”
He said the county’s cost have continued to grow while revenue has not.
“We’re looking really at everything in terms of what we need to do to get our budget under control,” Clinginpeel said.
County commissioners have suggested closing three of the four parks that take reservations. If that that happens, McCarthy, Krampe and Artman parks would close immediately. However, previously made reservations would be honored, including any weddings booked at Artman.
Commissioners have also talked about closing or reducing animal control services. The county is trying to avoid eliminating all animal services, but so far hasn’t worked out a plan.
“If animal control shut down, it would mean that the animals staying here along with the close to 1000 calls they get every year would go without help”
The Montcalm County Animal Shelter gets about 1,000 calls and takes in anywhere from 900 to 1,200 animals each year.
“My biggest concern would be that the animals in the community have nobody to help them — the horses that are tied up without shelter, the dogs that are tied up without shelter and the animals that are being starved,” Animal Control Director Angela Hollinshead said. “There would be no stray pick-ups. No safe haven for injured or suffering animals.”
Animal Control also helps with animal bites, handling around 200 per year.
Montcalm County spans roughly 720 square miles. The animal control facility — staffed by one full-time and a couple part-time employees — is the only free animal services in the county. The closest humane society is in Mt. Pleasant or Grand Rapids.
“You may have never had to call Animal Control, but there may come a time when you’re going to need us and you’re going to hope that we’re are here and we may not be here,” Hollinshead said.
If Animal Control is shut down, the hope is that the county would find an alternative to pick up some of the work.
Commissioners will vote on these issues on April 23.
The county may also suggest further cuts.