It seems to happen every year and this year isnt an exception

July 6, 2012
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It seems to happen every year, and this year isn’t an exception.

When members of the Kent County Finance Committee go through the mechanics of putting together the annual operating budget, they receive a request for capital improvement projects from the various department heads. And every year the total amount requested exceeds the amount the county budgets for the improvements, which are mostly one-time expenditures.

“We have $10 million in requests and, for all practical matters, we have $3 million available,” said Daryl Delabbio, county administrator and controller. “There are always more needs than funding that is available.”

The county funds its CIP budget by reserving two-tenths of a mill from its operating millage, which yields about $3.85 million annually. However, the county sets aside $1 million of that to pay down the debt for the upgrades it made to the Fuller Avenue Complex and then spends the remaining amount on improvement projects.

A team of department managers reviewed and whittled down the requested CIP list to the $4.7 million level and sent its recommendation to the committee. Those projects would be paid for with the $3.85 million from the millage and $853,000 from other sources.

The Finance Committee will act on the CIP list on July 17 and forward it to the full commission for its November vote.

But County Commissioner Jim Talen, who sits on the Finance Committee, asked, “When does commissioner influence come in?” He found out it doesn’t until the CIP review team completes its task and the committee makes its recommendation.

“I think the process has worked pretty well,” said Commissioner Roger Morgan.

“I can’t exert undue influence on the committee. It has to be an objective process,” said Delabbio.

A project’s cost has to exceed $25,000 to be considered a capital improvement project.

In a related matter, the county is in the process of negotiating a pro-rated reimbursement for improvements it made to a portion of a building in Rockford that once served as one part of the two-part 63rd District Court system until the county merged the court a few years ago.

When the court was incorporated into a single location in Grand Rapids Township, the county turned the building over to the city of Rockford but leased a portion of it for the court’s probation department. Delabbio said Rockford has asked the county to vacate the building. The county is willing to do that as long as it can recover a portion of its renovation cost and receive a promise from the municipalities in the area that they won’t ask for the court to have a presence there after the county leaves the building.

Delabbio said Chief District Court Judge Sara Smolinski agreed with the county’s position in the matter and said the county spent $60,000 to renovate that portion of the building.

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