Kent To Transfer Reserve Funds

January 23, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — County commissioners are likely to transfer more money into the General Fund this week, and also approve two employee contracts and a revised code of ethics.

The additional dollars will come from the Revenue Sharing Reserve Fund, an account the state created when Lansing stopped sending revenue sharing dollars to the 83 counties. State law allows counties to transfer a set amount from the reserve fund each year.

Commissioners are expected to appropriate another $104,942 from the fund Thursday, because the state raised its definition of the 2006 inflation rate from 2.3 percent to 3.3 percent. That rise in the rate lets the county withdraw the additional dollars from the reserve fund.

“There is no specific place for the money to go. It’s going into the General Fund,” said County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio.

The maximum amount the county can transfer from the reserve fund this year is $10.8 million, and that figure includes the latest appropriation. Before the change in the inflation rate, the most the county could have reassigned was $10.7 million. The transfer will push the General Fund up to $152.5 million for the fiscal year, which is the calendar year for Kent County.

County Fiscal Services Director Robert White told the Finance Committee last week that $24 million worth of general property tax receipts went into the reserve fund in 2004 and 2005, and that a similar amount will go into the account this year.

White also said that those funds are there for the county to transfer through 2011, the year the moratorium on revenue sharing for counties is supposed to expire. He added that the county should withdraw the maximum legal amount each year to make up for the loss of revenue-sharing dollars from the state.

“It looks like we’re just trying to get the money out as fast as possible,” said Dan Koorndyk, county vice chairman and chair of the Finance Committee.

Kent is expected to transfer $10.9 million from the reserve in 2007, $11.2 million in 2008, $11.5 million in 2009, and $11.7 million in 2010.

Board members will also have a chance to ratify two labor agreements that have already been approved by two county committees and both unions.

One is a three-year contract with the Police Officers Labor Council, which represents the seven full-time court reporters who work in the Circuit Court.

The agreement raises wages by 2.5 percent this year and next, and by 2.25 percent in 2008. The increases will cost the county $57,727 in salaries and $11,863 in benefits, or a total of $69,590, over the life of the contract.

“The funds are available in 2006 and will be available in 2007 and 2008,” said Delabbio.

The second is also a three-year agreement with the police labor council, but this contract is for the captains and lieutenants in the Sheriff’s Department. Their wages will retroactively rise by 3 percent for 2005, and 2.5 percent this year and in 2007.

The increases to salaries and benefits will cost the county $297,303 for the three years. There are 20 captains and lieutenants in the department.

“By and large, we are at or near the upper end of other counties,” said Delabbio of the wage scale for the department’s officers.

Captains and lieutenants will be able to contribute up to 8.5 percent of their wages each year of the contract to their pensions as long as the fund isn’t over-funded.

If the commission approves the agreements, Kent County will still need contracts with three of its nine unions, including its largest. United Auto Workers Local 2600 represents 1,500 county employees. That contract expired 13 months ago.

Commissioners will also vote this week on a revised Code of Ethics and Conflict of Interest Policy and a Strategic Plan for 2006.

The county adopted a conflict of interest policy in 1981. County Chairman Roger Morgan said it was time to review and update it. Minor revisions were made to the policy and a lengthy number of positions were added. Previously, these positions, such as John Ball Zoo director, were listed as “unclassified employees.”

The thick Strategic Plan document sets objectives for elected officials and county departments for the year, along with difficulties that each may face during the year.

“This is so massive,” said County Commissioner Marvin Hiddema of the document, “that I wonder if it will be of a functional service.”    

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