Kent County Board of Commissioners adopts six 2011 budgets


    Almost 17 percent, or nearly $27.5 million, of Kent County’s general fund is being transferred to five county budgets that have a fiscal year in line with the state’s, which begins Oct. 1.

    “The general fund portion of the budgets totals nearly $27.5 million,” said County Administration and Controller Daryl Delabbio.

    The expenditures for the Circuit Court Child Care, DHS Child Care, Health Department, Friend of the Court and Special Projects budgets total roughly $72.6 million, with $36 million of that amount to come mostly from state sources, although some federal dollars are also in the mix. Another $9 million will come from “other” sources, including charges for certain services.

    The largest transfer from the general fund, $10.7 million, will go to the 17th Circuit Court’s Child Care program, which has a 2011 fiscal year budget of $21.1 million. That is up from the $9.9 million in general fund dollars that went into this year’s budget, which looks like it will close the year on Sept. 30 at $19.5 million — more than $2 million under its initial projection. The state funds about 46 percent of the court’s budget for the program, which places juvenile delinquents in residential locations instead of housing them in the county’s detention center.

    “We’re seeing fewer juveniles returned to the court,” said Jack Roedema, circuit court administrator, of why the program’s budget was lower than expected this year. “The number of placements has gone down somewhat.”

    The 2011 spending plan will eliminate two full-time positions at the detention center. Delabbio said those positions were in the 2010 budget but were never filled.

    The Department of Human Services Child Care program, which focuses on abused and neglected children, will receive about $7 million from the county’s general fund that will go toward its $13.8 million budget. That’s roughly the same amount the county transferred to this year’s program. It appears, however, that the DHS budget will end this fiscal year at $11 million — $2.8 million below the projection made a year ago. “This is good news,” said Commissioner Jim Talen.

    Another $7 million in general fund dollars will go to the county’s Health Department, which has a total budget in 2011 of $24.5 million — or $2.5 million less than the current budget.

    “The fiscal year 2011 budget reductions include the elimination of four vacant positions and two occupied positions, including two grant-funded positions,” said Delabbio.

    “While most of the workload has been redistributed or eliminated due to programming changes, there will be a reduction in epidemiology activity including fewer investigations, reduced surveillance and slower response time to outbreaks,” he added.

    The county’s general fund will account for roughly 29 percent of the Health Department’s total revenue in 2011. Its 2011 budget is down by 9.2 percent from 2010’s.

    The county’s Friend of the Court operation will receive $2 million from the general fund for its $9 million budget, which is $200,000 less than this year’s budget. Most of the 2011 funding will come from federal grants totaling $6.2 million. The 2011 budget will eliminate three vacant full-time positions in casework, client services and accounting. But programs and services aren’t expected to be cut.

    “I guess we have to make sure that people don’t get left in the lurch,” said Commissioner Richard Vander Molen.

    Once a sore spot with commissioners due to the high number of complaints they received from the agency’s clients, the FOC has apparently become more efficient in its operations.

    “In the past eight or nine years, commissioners have probably seen a decline in complaints coming from the Friend of the Court,” said Delabbio. Vander Molen said he seldom receives one now.

    About $700,000 from the general fund will go into the Special Projects budget that will total $3.8 million in 2011. Special Projects funds programs for the Kent County Prosecutor’s office and Sheriff’s Department. The 2011 general fund transfer is nearly 7 percent higher than this year’s.

    A sixth county budget also has a fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, but the Veteran’s Trust budget doesn’t receive money from the general fund. Its entire $75,000 budget comes from state grants.

    With the state supplying about half of the funding for the five budgets, county officials are somewhat apprehensive about the general budget that Lansing lawmakers are expected to adopt soon. The county is concerned that its state funding may drop and the reduced revenue could result in some positions being eliminated. Delabbio said if that does happen, those jobs would go away, unless commissioners decide to completely fund the positions with county dollars.

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