LAKE CITY — A lot of Missaukee County is swampland that isn’t worth much in tax dollars (wetlands are ecologically important).
To compensate for the more than 80,000 acres of wetlands in Missaukee County, the state of Michigan usually pays the county a “swamp tax.‘
But the swamp tax, worth $144,308 to Missaukee County, was one of the items that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed in the FY 2020 budget.
In all, Whitmer’s vetoes, if they aren’t reversed in a supplemental budget deal with the legislature, represent a loss of $240,279 to Missaukee County’s general fund, or 4.6% of the fund, according to a memo from County Administrator Precia Garland to county commissioners for the board’s regular monthly meeting.
However, it is likely that the county’s secondary road patrol funding would be restored.
Still, that means the county would have $200,000 less than it had originally planned a couple months back when budgeting for Fiscal Year 2020.
While Missaukee County has, in recent years, typically budgeted for spending five-figures more than its revenue every year, it’s also common for the county to end up saving money instead of spending down its rainy day fund. The FY 2019 budget isn’t final yet, but at last check, the county was in the position to save $29,731.
The county budgeted spending $73,000 more than its revenue in FY 2020, but Whitmer’s vetoes could add hundreds of thousands to the county’s overspend.
If the governor and legislature don’t make a deal restoring those funds, the county might need to make cuts.
While Garland advised commissioners to take a wait-and-see approach to the governor’s vetoes, she also laid out some of the pertinent facts, like the cost of one full-time employee (on average, $62,000 in wages and fringe benefits) and that Michigan State University Extension is one of the services the county provides but is not obligated to do so (their agreement can be terminated with 120 days notice).
Besides the swamp tax, Whitmer’s vetoes that would impact Missaukee County include DNR payment-in-lieu-of-taxes funds, which are similar to the swamp tax; secondary road patrol; indirect child care funds; commercial forest tax and jail reimbursements.
But Garland urged the county not to act rashly and in fact did not ask commissioners for any board action.
“I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that most of these cuts will be restored,‘ she said.