Thursday morning Kent County Commissioners are expected to adopt a budget for next year that eliminates 56 full time positions. The cuts are part of an overall plan to keep county spending in line as revenue from property taxes decline.
2010 is the first year taxable value has gone down in Kent County. That’s the value property taxes are based on. Money collected from property taxes make up a little more than half of the county's general fund.
It's about the same for the vast majority of Michigan's 82 other counties. Tom Hickson is with the Michigan Association of Counties. "Obviously property taxes is the big ticket item for counties but revenue-sharing is huge way to help offset costs in public safety, human services, you name it,” Hickson said. He estimates revenue-sharing – the money counties get from the state – makes up roughly 20% of counties’ budgets.
Most of the proposed jobs cuts are to the Kent County sheriff's department. Hickson says Kent County is not alone in that decision. "A lot of counties have been laying off road patrol because it’s not a mandated service. Parks are an area that sees quite a bit of suffering and cutbacks. Really counties have a limited amount of areas where they can cut because they're mandated to do so much."
Public safety is where counties generally spend most of their money. That includes running a jail, sheriff’s department, prosecutor’s office, and court staff. Public safety is followed by health and human services like foster care.