REED CITY -- Across the board departmental cuts, elimination of non-essential staff and increased fees for services are just some of the things the Osceola County Board of Commissioners settled on to bring the 2020 fiscal year proposed budget into balance.

Facing a $1.3 million deficit in the general fund, the board looked at various options for balancing the budget and in the end had to use nearly $700,000 from the unreserved fund balance.

Following a public hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 5, during which no one from the public spoke, the board unanimously approved the 2020 Budget Resolution and General Appropriations Act.

"This is the annual resolution the board passes to appropriate funds and authorize expenditures," Osceola County Coordinator Susan Vander Pol said. "It sets the policies for expenditures and when appropriations will be made, and tells the public what the millages are set at for the next year."

"If we continue this trend, how long before we are in the red in our fund balance?" Commissioner Timothy Michell asked.

"This is not a trend you want to continue," Vander Pol said. "If we don't make some changes, probably within four years you won't have a fund balance."

The county is looking for increased property values to help alleviate some of the budget issues, but even with that there will still need to be additional revenues or possibly fewer services, Vander Pol said.

The board has discussed several options for reducing expenditures for future budgets, including combining certain departments to reduce staffing, privatizing some services, such as security and making changes to the employee defined benefit plan and health insurance plans.

Changes being discussed include decreasing the employer contribution to the retirement fund, increasing the retirement age for new employees from 60 to 62, changing the early retirement requirement for new hires from 15 years of service at age 55 to 25 years of service at age 55 and reducing the county contribution to the employee health care benefit.

Options being considered for increasing revenue include additional increases in fees for services, pursuing contracts for housing prisoners and placing an increase in the millage rates up for vote on next years ballot.

The millages levied for the 2020 budget are 6.4035 for general operations and 1 mill each for road patrol, emergency management services and the Commission on Aging.

The projected total revenues and expenditures for fiscal year 2020 are $23,298,295. The projected revenues and expenditures for the general fund are $9,462,403.