Who We Are Part II: Where the money goes.

In Part one the US Census amply demonstrates the reality of who we are now, what we can afford now, how well we can weather tough financial times or unexpected bills – and how our reserve funds have all but disappeared.

Part One closed with a notice of denial to borrow funds from the State of Michigan as a consequence of an 18% delinquent property tax rate.

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On the Ballot on August 7 was a question of whether to approve a 30 year loan for $350,000 to fund a new maintenance building but now the Village has now received a denial of a Qualifying Statement that may be in question. Village voters approved that by 48- 36. Barely half of voters actually voted.

The Village only placed information about this proposed construction project and its cost on their own web site after a sustained and repeated series of FOIA requests to both the Village and USDA.

Questions persist as to the actual location, the budget, the missing elements of how constructing this structure will impact the new wellhead construction and paving the area and its close proximity to the main water line junction. [see prior post here]

Questions remain how the Village will collect sufficient funds to make the 30 year $350,000 loan payments of @$18 000 a year – a total with interest of $554,526  when money set aside for this last year was transferred to cover budget shortfalls in other funds.{see prior Post here}

Will the Village reconsider the scope or cost of this project? Will the Village sell obsolete vehicles and reconsider repairs to the current garage on US31? Where will funds come from to install a sander that fits new the replacement plow truck if a recently submitted Revenue Sharing Grant application fails again?

Coupled with the cost of the $1.4m water system loan it is inevitable that the only means of meeting this level of debt is by raising water bills.

Using the Village’s FY2018-19 figures: –

But in August the Water Fund had been amended to this:

If the projections supplied by our accountant are wrong we invite the Village to provide factual ones?

The Village of Bear Lake amends its operating budget seemingly every month.

At the August meeting, the Village eliminated 2 savings accounts [as highlighted below] and agreed to an additional $1869 per month for 6 month repayment structured debt repayment for interest on invoiced services from Fleis Vandenbrink dating from 2016.

Under our current 6 month FOIA subscription we have requested a copy of that invoice and how the interest accrued over so many years.

Where will the $1865 per month come from? Why is there a shifting of the $35k Capital Outlay? Has the Village bought and paid for 2 pieces of property from the school or one?

It appears the current state of finances leaves very little margin for the unexpected.

Also in August 2018_ Motion to close savings accounts for: General Fund, Major & Minor Funds and Equipment Fund by Bass and seconded by Johnson, motion carried. The rationale being it isn’t necessary to have reserve funds and it complicates the accounting?

What does the notation in the General Fund mean?

Compare that with the closing Budget report from FY2017-18.

Continued lack of information, or the willingness to provide it on request,  concerning financial transactions is troubling. Why is the latest Treasurer Report listed on the Village web site June? Why is the DRAFT FY2018-19 Operating Budget listed here but not the Approved?

Should a resident have to ask numerous times for basic public information, then be required to submit a FOIA request for the work product their taxes have paid for?

If elected officials are so confidant of the course they have chosen, why be so unwilling to provide the documents to support that position?

It is often stated that these current infrastructure projects are needed ‘for our children’ let’s hope they can afford them, and that families can afford to move, or even stay,  here in the first place?

With so few children here now – can Bear Lake Schools survive? If their current REU rating is 17.5 that makes their current monthly water bill  $675. If the‘Water Board’ cuts that then someone else has to pick up the difference.

It is often stated that these projects are needed to ‘make Bear Lake great again’.

A subscriber has commented:

” To echo the recent eulogy of Meghan McCain, those of us who have lived here all our lives have always thought of this as a pretty great place to live and raise a family: great quality of life, great natural environment and affordable housing

It has been stated by more than one Village official that those who can’t afford to live here now should move. When all the homes are occupied by non resident seasonal home owners who will be left to support this mythical influx of promised businesses year round let alone be available to work in them.”

Editor Comment:

  • Being middle to low income does not reflect a deficiency  – in either personal wealth or character.
  • Having concerns about current and future financial sustainability does not equate with ‘backwards’ thinking.
  • Being committed to a better future should be grounded in reality – both for economic development prospects and in protecting the quality of life of the people who already live here.
  • Being smart and savvy in seeking out opportunity and innovation is far more preferable to making life unaffordable for any but the financially fortunate.
  • Those who have raised very real rational concerns and questions about current Village finances have been subjected to social media trolling and ridicule for being ‘losers’ and ‘naysayers’.
  • Perhaps those critics, most of whom are not Village tax payers, who are so dismissive of residents fears might like to buy vacant homes or businesses and move back into the Village? Nothing motivates reality like having some financial skin in this game.

Now wouldn’t THAT be ‘great’?