This week, I am happy to report that one of my concerns on the Board was addressed. Last year, a fee increase for the parks went through without a vote of the Commissioners. When I asked how that is possible, I was told that the resolution creating the Ingham County Parks and Recreation includes language that says that the Parks Commission can create fees that go into effect if the Board of Commissioners don't strike them down within 60 days. That greatly upset me because I believe that the Board of Commissioners are the elected officials, and should set those fees. So, I authored a resolution that requires any fee increases to be approved by the Board first. That resolution came before the County Services and Finance Committees this week. In County Services, we amended it to allow for concessions fees to be changed by the Parks staff because those prices can fluctuate and we don't want to micromanage too much, but the rest of the fees are now subject to Board approval and will be on the annual fee schedule. I always believe that fees and taxes should be in the hands of the elected officials or the people, and not the staff. I am proud that this passed the committees unanimously.
In Finance, we also learned of an exciting proposal. If you remember last week, the Parks Department had an offer of cheap fill dirt and we are now putting that on the Tubing Hill at Hawk Island. Well, the Parks Commission was approached by a group of people who want to create the first ever public snowboard park at Hawk Island. Because the tubing hill is a curve, the snowboard hill would be on an adjacent part of the hill and used for snowboarders. They are asking for a loan of $30,000 to properly create the hill and for equipment and other things, which will be paid back in fees that are collected to use the hill. The snowboard community will also be donating thousands of dollars worth of equipment. The business is working with the Parks Department to craft a proposal that we will see in two weeks or a month, and this will attract numerous snowboarders to Hawk Island and to the Lansing area.
Also in the good news column, we learned this week that as of March, all 8 deputies that were laid off as a result of the defeat of the 12 township votes on road patrol now have jobs. So we will have no laid off out of work deputies. I am disappointed that those people had to go 3 months laid off, but am happy that they are now all taken care of. This was announced after we passed the resolution approving the contract with Williamstown for the dollars that we promised them because they passed the assessment for police. I am still hopeful that the other 12 townships will take us up on the money that we set aside for them, and we will hold that money for them until December 31st.
Finally, as you most definitely know by now, the Governor released his budget plan. In it, he cut revenue sharing from the state to the counties by 1/3. Ingham County was looking at the potential of a big deficit (anywhere from $5 million to $8 million), and the cuts the Governor has announced will definitely substantially increase that deficit if approved by the Governor. We will be looking at those numbers at the next Finance committee. This will not be pretty for Ingham County or for local governments anywhere, and either services will be slashed or local taxes will have to be raised. Budgeting will not be fun for the next year. But stay tuned!