Consultant: Budget deficit in Montcalm Co. for a decade

STANTON, Mich. (WOOD) — With Montcalm County’s budget in dire straits, a financial consulting group on Monday spelled out how the finances became such a mess and where cuts will have to be made.

No decisions were made at the meeting of the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners, which has the final call on all cuts.

The consultant’s report says the county has a history of budgeting in a deficit. For 12 of the past 13 years, it has been in the red and no one seemed to know about it. It shows county leaders budgeted optimistically for the money they were taking in and weren’t adjusting spending to match the lower amount of revenue. They also weren’t monitoring how that affected the county’s general fund.

The county is now some $2 million in the hole and needs to come up with nearly $2.5 million to get back on track.

“It is beyond me that all you commissioners had no idea about it and it is a huge surprise,” one resident said during public comment.

“If you overstate revenue and understate expenses, what you end up with is the situation we are in,” explained Bob Clinginpeel, who was brought in as county controller after the budget shortfall was discovered. “We’ve already realized some cuts, if you will. … I believe three layoffs. I believe three deputies have already moved on to other jobs.”

The financial consultant proposed a working over the next several years to get the county’s general fund back in the black. To do that, they’ll have to cut some $1.5 million. Most of that will come from personnel, and much of that will be to general government workers and public safety.

The next steps are for the county to meet to discuss how it’s going to make more tough cuts. Those meetings with take place in the upcoming days and weeks.

Montcalm County budget
Montcalm County needs to cut about $1.5 million from its budget. (Sept. 12, 2016)

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