County Commissioner: Save the County Money By Having Less Of Us

Andrew Trzaska | March 8, 2011

Could Muskegon County save money by eliminating any number of commissioners from its board?

The idea was circulated at Tuesday’s full board meeting, and a board member himself brought it up.

In the midst of a discussion about finding money to fund County jail improvements, District 4 commissioner James Derezinski suggested that even reducing the 11-member board to 9 members could save the county money to be used on the jail or elsewhere.

Derezinski’s suggestion comes at a critical time, amidst a series of meetings set up by the Muskegon County Apportionment Commission to get public input on their plans to redraw the number of districts and where the new districts’ borders fall.

One meeting at the Egelston Township Hall (5428 E. Apple Avenue) is scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m.  The next public meeting is scheduled for March 21 at the Ravenna Township Fire Station (3763 Blackmer Road).

While aware that the board could not make the decision on their own to reduce their size, Derezinski said he made the suggestion to generate discussion among the board as well as the general public.

County Clerk Nancy Waters informed the board that the Apportionment Commission’s findings and decisions would be based on public input as well as 2010 Census data not yet received from the federal government.
Once received, the County has 60 days to file a plan for new county districts.

This is not the first time commissioner salaries have been the focus of budget cuts.  Last year, the group of commissioners who sat on the board before the November 2010 elections voted unanimously to forego scheduled 1% raises, saving the county $4,300 dollars a year in budgets.

Derezinski suggested that between salaries and associated benefits, up to $50,000 could be saved by eliminating even two seats from the board, a number disputed by District 5 commissioner Marvin Engle.

County commissioners make a base salary of $16,359, with the board chairperson earning $18,584 per year.  The county’s overall budget exceeds $40 million.

Other counties in the State of Michigan have even larger county boards than Muskegon County.  Cass County, smaller than Muskegon County in population, has a board of 15 commissioners.

Kalamazoo County’s reapportionment committee recently expressed a desire to shrink their 17-member board, seeing it as a cost-savings measure.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst