I believe the decision by the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners to not fully increase funding for the Office of Veterans Affairs for the year 2014 as requested, is misguided.
The 2014 Proposed Budget by the Office of Veterans Affairs was $93,000. Approved by the County Board on 12/9/13 was $89,000.
As quoted in The Daily News on December 10: "Commissioner John Degenaer, Jr. said the $89,000 appropriation was an attempt to meet the office's funding request half-way. We take this very seriously" he said.
May I ask: What do you take very seriously? The county board was given an itemized 2014 Budget Proposal. Were there any line items that looked seriously out of line? Comparisons were made to 2011, 2012, and 2013 and there are changes to deal with. Among the changes were: the Audit Fee, due to the retirement of Alan Thornberry, CPA, going from $500 to a minimum of $1,500 and possibly more; Workmen's' Comp going to $435; and liability insurance to $1,384. Rent (back to the County) for the office in the YMCA building was raised to $6,538 for 2014.
The members of the Office of Veterans Affairs Council, made up of representatives of various veteran groups in Dickinson County, met on Dec. 16. At that meeting they approved an adjusted 2014 budget to match the County Board's appropriation of $89,000. This includes a voluntary wage freeze for the director and the secretary. That includes no cost of living allowance afforded all county employees. Also, it may have to include a cut in employee hours towards the end of the fiscal year.
The following is an agreement between Dickinson County, and the Office of Veterans' Affairs: "The County of Dickinson hereby enters into this Agreement with the Office of Veterans' Affairs, a private, non-profit, non-stock corporation incorporated under the laws of the State of Michigan on August 17, 1992, whereby Dickinson County will appropriate to said Office an amount equivalent to 1/10 Mill (.10 per $1,000 of State Equalized Valuation) for the purpose of providing services to Dickinson County Veterans. The 1/10 mill during 1999 shall be derived from the extra voted millage as approved by Dickinson County voters whereas, in years thereafter, it shall be derived from the County's operational millage as approved by Dickinson County voters."
In 2012 1/10 mill was $92,177 with an amount of $82,500 requested and granted; in 2013 1/10 mill was $93,746 with an amount of $85,000 requested and granted. In 2014 1/10 mill estimated to be $96,000 with an amount of $93,000 requested and $89,000 approved by the County board.
Has the time come to put 1/10 mill back up to a vote? All counties in Michigan are required by law to have a Veterans Affairs officer. Dickinson County has a director that is nationally accredited and also accredited with three Service Organizations (DAV, VFW, and American Legion).
Our prior director was not accredited, which is often the case. Chuck Lantz, Director, and Carol Conway, Secretary, are experienced and hard working. Their work-load is growing, not shrinking.
Helping to procure veterans' benefits is not their only responsibility. They also coordinate Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs, along with many other civic duties. County Commissioner Joe Stevens has publicly complimented Lantz for making the Dickinson office "the best one in Michigan."
As Second Vice-Chairman of the Executive Board to the Office of Veterans' Affairs (a voluntary position) I speak for myself and the other four members: Chairman Jim Oien, First Vice-Chairman Bob Morrell, Finance Officer Ray Hamm, and Judge Advocate/Sergeant-at-Arms Dana LaPlante. Please make the responsibilities that our two employees have assumed easier, not harder, by allowing them to work the hours required, for the compensation they are due.
Norway Post 145