Scottville playing it safe with budget

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Capital News Service
LANSING — Scottville City Manager Amy Hansen is playing it safe until after the Nov. 5 elections.
After Gov. John Engler’s veto of revenue sharing and an override vote by legislators to restore it, many local government leaders are concerned about future cuts. Hansen will wait to purchase new printers and a phone system for her office.
“We’re not looking into spending any more money this year,” she said. “We’re not making any major cuts, but we’re not going to buy any luxury items.”
If revenue sharing had been cut, Scottville would have lost $108,360. Hansen would have lost two of her nine employees and probably would have had to cut the part-time position in her zoning department.
Scottville had just purchased a new police car.
“We were already too far into the purchase of it, but we had the potential to lose that,” Hansen said. “We also had a sewer project started that we would’ve had to go through with anyway.
“But without revenue sharing it would’ve been a lot more difficult.”
New revenue forecast reports will be available in a couple of months, and Rep. David Mead, R-Frankfort, who voted to override the governor’s veto, said concern over the possibility of future cuts in revenue sharing is justified.
“I think it is something that the locals are going to continue to stand guard on,” he said. “The problems we see are continued budget restraints. If all other parts of the budget had a 1 to 2 percent cut, there would possibly be a similar reduction in revenue sharing.
“Otherwise, I don’t see how I could support cuts.”
Mead, a former county commissioner, knows that local governments have made commitments for services.
“During the rest of my tenure I’ll continue to watch over that part of the budget,” he said.
The Michigan Municipal League is also watching over revenue sharing and working to educate the public about how crucial the money is to local governments.
“A lot of it is communication with our members,” said Michael Brady, director of the league’s state and federal affairs division. “We tell them the best way to talk to their legislators about their communities, telling them what the money goes to and how critical it is.
“I think we did a pretty good job of that during the revenue-sharing battle and we’re continuing that.”
Brady said revenue sharing can account for up to 20 percent of a municipality’s general fund. It would have been 55 percent of Hansen’s revenue sharing budget.
“If they say they’re only going to cut 20 percent, that’s still one employee,” Hansen said. “It’s still too much for any of us to lose.
“We may not have seen the end of this. I would rather play it safe than sorry.”
Mason County would have lost $568,274 to revenue sharing cuts. At this point County Administrator Fabian Knizacky said, the county is proposing a lowered revenue sharing figure of $520,000 in its 2003 budget.
“The County Board did not establish what they would cut; they didn’t want to scare people with dollar amounts,” Knizacky said. “They identified areas they would look at, but didn’t break them down because the override happened so quickly.”
The areas that could have been cut include animal control, road patrol, economic development, zoning and the drain commission.
Knizacky is also concerned about the future.
“The state budget continues to be in worse shape than they’ve made public,” he said. “I just heard they have a bigger deficit than they planned for this year.
“They’ll probably look at us again next year.”
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism

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