Houghton County approves 2018-19 budget

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton County Administrator Eric Forsberg (right) discusses the county’s budget during a public hearing Tuesday. Seen left of Forsberg are Anton Pintar, Tom Tikkanen, Jennifer Lorenz and Gretchen Janssen.

HOUGHTON — The Houghton County Board approved a budget Tuesday with a surplus of nearly $16,000.

The 2018-19 budget has General Fund revenues of about $9.87 million, versus spending of about $9.85 million.

Property taxes account for about 55 percent of county revenue.

The biggest expenditures were wages and benefits, accounting for about 67 percent of spending.

At $148.22 per person, Houghton County has the lowest per capita property tax in the Upper Peninsula, according to figures provided by the county.

Administrator Eric Forsberg compared Houghton County to Delta and Chippewa counties, which are of similar size.

Chippewa, which also has a university in Lake Superior State, takes in about $1.9 million more in property taxes per year — $43.49 more per person. Delta takes in $1.5 million more.

“If we took in the average per capita property taxes, I could pay off MERS (Municipal Employees’ Retirement System) in three years, I could build a new jail in four,” he said. “We historically, compared to the other counties in the U.P., have been underassessed — and not by a minor amount, by a large amount.”