Residents pack into county budget meeting

Extra chairs were crammed into the council room as more than a hundred residents came out to voice concerns over proposed budget cuts.

More than 120 people packed into the Governmental Center in Traverse City Thursday night for the county commission's special meeting regarding the 2014 budget.

A million-dollar budget deficit has several county departments on the chopping block. Many community members felt the need to speak out against the proposed cuts.

â??It's more important for us to have our deliberation, to be able to figure out where is it that we want to go,â?? said Commissioner Herb Lemcool.

County Administrator Dave Benda proposed a possible solution which he said could almost completely meet the deficit: bonding for pension liabilities.

Commissioners listened to an hour long presentation from Warren Craemer and were able to ask questions about the proposal. Some commissioners voiced concerns over cities, in similar situations, digging themselves further into trouble by bonding out.

They all appeared to agree to need more time and more answers.

â??Whether you bond for it or you don't bond for it, the effect will be the same. You still have to have the extra cash,â?? said Benda.

The Traverse City commission limited the amount of public comment to 15 minutes, allowing a few of the hundred-plus crowd to voice their opinions.

â??Shall we tell our non-swimmers that it's ok if they never learn about safety in the water? What will that cost us?â?? questioned one resident.

Dozens of people came out in support of the civic center's pool. It had been determined that closing the pool could save the county $75,000.

More possible cuts to the Parks & Recreation department include eliminating care takers' positions at Twin Lakes park and Power Island, which would kick back another $75,000. Eliminating the positions of office manager and park director would save the county about $150,000.

Another proposal would involve cutting eight positions from the sheriff's office which includes five of its 24 road patrol deputies. That move would save the county a $600,000.

There were five presentations Thursday night from the various departments with proposed cuts.

Commissioners will continue to weigh the options before making any cuts or changes.