Auditor: IM holding its own on finances

IRON MOUNTAIN — The city of Iron Mountain has a sizable fund balance, money that will come in handy as it sees higher obligations for pensions and retiree health costs.

The city council Tuesday reviewed a 2017 audit report with Shane Ellison of Anderson, Tackman & Co. of Iron Mountain, who described the city as, overall, “sitting very well.”

“Most municipalities are having a hard time holding their own,” he said.

Ellison pointed to a slight increase in the city’s unassigned general fund balance, which climbed to nearly $2.2 million as of June 30, 2017.

The council’s goal is to maintain a fund balance of at least 25 percent of the next year’s budgeted expenditures. This year’s target was $1.65 million, so it was easily met.

On a less encouraging note, the city has an unfunded retiree health insurance liability previously estimated at $34.1 million, plus pension liabilities of nearly $13.9 million.

“Some of our payments are starting to escalate,” City Manager Jordan Stanchina advised.

The city’s retiree health cost of nearly $1.5 million annually represents about 17 percent of the general fund budget. Employees who retired before 2008 receive benefits paid entirely by the city, while other retirees pay 6 to 20 percent of the cost, depending on the agreement. Employees hired after 2011 are not eligible for retiree health benefits.

“It took a long time to get there,” Stanchina said of the retiree obligations, adding it will be many years before payments begin to ease.

Ellison, meanwhile, acknowledged that declining property tax revenues as a result of Michigan Tax Tribunal settlements are a concern. “It’s hard on municipalities,” he said.

Stanchina said such settlements may cost the city about $100,000 this year — revenues that also likely will be lost for the years ahead.

In other action, the council:

— Adopted a resolution in support of the Northern Lights YMCA Dickinson Center’s capital campaign to renovate and expand its facilities. Thanks largely to donations from individuals, the center is about 75 percent to its goal, with construction possible in 2019, said Jonathan Ringel, center director. The local YMCA has more than 2,500 members and 5,600 annual visitors, Ringel said.

— Heard Stanchina report that 44 antlerless deer were culled from the city herd during the 2017 managed archery hunt.

— Agreed to schedule a committee meeting with representatives of the Rotary Club of Iron Mountain-Kingsford, who would like to add a pavilion at the viewing platform on Millie Hill.