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Child care costs increase Tuscola County’s budget  

Another factor impacting the county’s general fund budget is the financial windfall initially promised from wind development is considerably less because state lawmakers arbitrarily changed the taxing formula on turbines to be 27 percent less and also shortened the depreciation schedule on life use. Because of those factors, low interest earnings, flat property values, and more, county officials still have to use about $209,000 in fund reserves to balance the next budget despite the additional revenue from turbines. With out the extra wind development revenue, even though reduced, major cuts and reduction would have to be made.

Credit:  By Mary Drier, Staff Writer | Tuscola Today | November 9, 2013 | www.tuscolatoday.com ~~

THUMB AREA – Between poor parenting skills and poor choices by some youths, Tuscola County Commissioners will have to use $124,000 of fund reserves to cover increased child-care costs this year, and are expecting to budget about half a million dollars in 2015 for child-care programs.

According to county Controller Mike Hoagland, the cost of care for abused, neglected, and delinquent children can be about $120,000 per child, per year for those placed in institutional care.

“There is no way to predict how many that will be to be each year to be able to budget for the cost,” he said. “(Budgeted) numbers could change dramatically because of several factors. Child care costs is one.”

In October, commissioners approved increasing the Department of Human Services Child Care Fund appropriation to $300,000 from $175,000 to cover the cost of youths placed in institutional care so far this year.

Currently, there are four youths in institutional care.

For 2014 fiscal year, the plan is to budget $366,000, and about $450,000 for the 2015 budget to cover services for abused, neglected, and delinquent youths.

Plus, those numbers are just for child care costs through the department of human services and don’t include child-care costs through probate court. Between those two expenses, the county plans to budget $841,000 for 2014, but it could be more.

“This is a tremendous negative budget factor and there is no way to determine the expense,” said Hoagland. “There is no discretion in the case of rising costs for abuse, neglect and delinquent children.”

Another factor impacting the county’s general fund budget is the financial windfall initially promised from wind development is considerably less because state lawmakers arbitrarily changed the taxing formula on turbines to be 27 percent less and also shortened the depreciation schedule on life use.

Because of those factors, low interest earnings, flat property values, and more, county officials still have to use about $209,000 in fund reserves to balance the next budget despite the additional revenue from turbines. With out the extra wind development revenue, even though reduced, major cuts and reduction would have to be made.

“From 2008 – 2012 were the most difficult financial years in the history of Tuscola County. The general fund went from $12.6 million in 2008 down to $11.6 million in 2012,” said Hoagland. “The first draft of 2014 (budget) is $12.6 million… up because of wind development, but that tax declines quickly under the new (tax and depreciation) formula.”

Despite three multi-million dollar wind development projects in the county, they will only bring next year’s budget to about $12.6 million, which is the same level as it was back in 2008. Without the wind projects, the county’s taxable value would be flat or declining over the next few years.

“That is critical to remember,” Hoagland pointed out as commissioners work on next year’s budget. “Property tax revenue is about 45 percent of our total general fund budget and 100 percent for our eight special purpose millages.

“We are heavily reliant on wind revenue to maintain our current levels of services. With the state’s tax reduction on turbines – which is still being challenged – it leaves the exact amount of money we receive up in the air.”

Besides decreasing the taxes levied on turbines, the state also decreased the number of years of depreciation to show no taxable value towards the end of the life expectancy of a turbines use. Although the county’s first wind turbine became operational about a year ago; under the new depreciation schedule, the they will start declining in monetary value for the county’s general fund in 2015 and in 2016 for the special millages.

Through careful management, it is estimated about $250,000 will be able to be put into the capital improvement fund from this year’s budget to go towards upkeep and repairs to the county’s 14 facilities. For several years, there was no money put in that fund.

The county has to approved the 2014 budget before Jan. 1, 2014. In the meantime, officials continue to review and work on the budget.

Source:  By Mary Drier, Staff Writer | Tuscola Today | November 9, 2013 | www.tuscolatoday.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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