Time running out for Grand Traverse budget

County commissioners are looking for a solution to budget issues.

Grand Traverse County commissioners rejected a proposed 2014 budget at Wednesday nightâ??s meeting, by a vote of four to three.

That budget would have allowed the county to use a million dollars from the fund balance to counter the budget deficit.

â??Much like an individual would have a savings account in a bank, it is for emergencies and for when times are tough. And times are tough,â?? said Commissioner Christine Maxbauer.

There was no budget going into Wednesdayâ??s meeting, and no budget coming out of the meeting. So many people are worried about some major cuts being proposed, but the bottom line is the county needs to find a solution.

â??If they approve the million dollars, there will be a few changes and cuts,â?? said Commissioner Herb Lemcool. â??There'll be some increases in fees, but it won't be the major, like Parks and Rec or police department.â??

Since they did not approve allocating those funds, those cuts may be in order. One 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 $600,000. Closing the Civic Center's pool could save the county $75,000, and changes made to Parks and Recreation could save around $225,000.

â??We absolutely have to make some tough choices now. We should've been making those choices over the past four years,â?? said Maxbauer.

The county has been using money from the fund balance the past few years, but commissioners and residents agree that action needs to be taken to provide a long-term solution.

â??I would like to see us go to a two or three year budget so we really see what the impacts are on our budget as to how we're going to handle the shortfalls and whether or not we're going to have to do major cuts,â?? said Lemcool.

Commissioners are being asked to consider a bonding proposal which would essentially refinance their pension system.

The county's finance director and administrator both stand by their recommendations for the bonding proposal, but the board is still divided on the issue. No decisions were made Wednesday night regarding the bonding proposal.

â??I think they should use the money in the bonds or whatever they're going to get the money from, and come up with other means of getting that money back,â?? said Richard Smith, a former county employee. â??I just don't think it's fair to the people who work here, past and present. It puts a lot of strain on everyone in general.â??

The commissioners will continue to work toward reaching a budget solution by the end of the year.