Watch your wallets, Alpena County residents | News, Sports, Jobs – Alpena News

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Sep 10, 2022
It’s human nature.
You suddenly are presented with an unexpected gift of money, and what’s the first thing you think about?
If you are like me — and, for that matter, most folks — it probably is, what am I going to spend that new windfall on?
Truth be told, most of us are like a little child who doesn’t want that money to stay long in their pocket, as it will burn a hole through it.
I get it and you get it. The money is an unexpected gift, and, darn it, we work hard and deserve something special with it.
Problems start developing, however, when that money is used to pay for things in our regular household budget. Instead of $50 for our gasoline budget for a week, we have started to spend $80. Groceries once were $100 a week but now are $130.
And, while using the unexpected money to help “fill in the shortfall” in the budget is good today, it doesn’t address the long-term solution to what is needed to address the growing budget dilemma.
The Alpena County commissioners understand what I am talking about.
They — and, by extension, each of you who is a county resident — are in that same quandary. Again this year, they face another large budget shortfall, and it was shared last week that portions of the county’s American Rescue Plan Act funds might be needed to lower the shortfall.
In my opinion, it is dangerous for government entities like the county to rely on funds like those of the American Rescue Plan. Yes, those funds are available today, but they most certainly will disappear in the future.
And when they do, then what?
Alpena County Administrator Mary Catherine Hannah, in a story last week in the newspaper, said steps already are being taken to cut county expenses. That is a great start to address the issue and one that is needed. Of course, where the cuts will be made starts a whole new discussion and posturing between county officeholders.
Another option would be property taxes. While a millage request probably is inevitable if commissioners hope to address their shortfalls, pursuing implementation of millage language is something no commissioner wants to be known for.
And, given the current political climate across the country today, a government request for money might be as well received as that of a polar bear asking for a bikini for Christmas.
As I read Hannah’s comments in the newspaper, I was struck by another option she suggested, that of housing county inmates at a neighboring jail through a contract with that county. While, indeed, that certainly could be an option, can you envision the resident uprising that would occur after county residents just put themselves in debt to pay for the brand-new county jail?
No commissioner would ever vote to do that if they expected to remain in office for long.
I have learned over the years that County Treasurer Kim Ludlow is one politician who doesn’t mince words and doesn’t sugarcoat anything.
Thus, when she warned that, if something isn’t done soon by the commissioners, the county could be at the mercy of the state, I worry.
Thus, I urge county residents to circle Oct. 11 on the calendar, as the first county workshop on the 2023 budget will take place that day.
You will want to pay close attention from then forward, as I have a feeling the wallets of county residents are going to be impacted sooner rather than later if county officials hope to avoid a worse financial mess.
Bill Speer recently retired as the publisher and editor of The News. He can be reached at bspeer@thealpenanews.com.
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