Delta Force members learn governing city no easy task

ESCANABA – A group of adults involved in a local leadership program are learning a lot about the responsibilities of community leaders. During a mock council meeting Thursday, members of the Delta Force program produced a balanced $1 million budget for the pretend city by the same name.

“Delta Force Mayor” Allison Kirby found out “it’s tough” to be a city leader making decisions that affect people’s lives, emotions, and the quality of life while considering realistic revenues and available manpower.

“Delta Force City Manager” Chris Perryman had a similar realization, saying, “People have to be willing to pay for extra services.”

When asked if either would be interested in serving on a city government, Kirby replied no but Perryman said it’s something he’s interested in.

The two are among 22 residents who are participating in this year’s Delta Force, a program for individuals to learn about and experience different aspects of the community so they can become more involved as citizens and leaders.

The group meets monthly for nine months. Thursday’s mock meeting was part of Government Day which began with a history of Delta County’s government presented by Peter Strom, local historian and attorney.

The Delta County Chamber of Commerce organizes the nine-month leadership program.

According to Sheila Krueger, associate director of the chamber, “Government Day is meant to get students to realize the complex issues that go into local government and the difficult decisions they have to make.”

Thursday’s mock council meeting involved Delta Force participants taking on roles as council members, department heads, business people, and local citizens. Each offered input into a proposed budget for the city of Delta Force. Participants got a taste of how financial decisions are made by local leaders in creating a balanced budget.

Delta County Clerk Nancy Kolich, a facilitator for Government Day, explained to the group that local municipalities and the state government are required to have balanced budgets for upcoming fiscal years; the national government is not required to have a balanced budget but can operate under a deficit budget.

Several factors which play into a municipality’s financial picture include increases in expenses such as health care and retirement costs and decreases in revenue such as cuts in state funding, said Kolich.

Typically, because of the cost of living and other factors, the bottom line results in cuts in programs or services, she noted.

“The biggest responsibility (of a municipality) is to provide necessary services at a responsible cost,” said Kolich.

During Thursday’s budget preparation, the city of Delta Force decided to not raise taxes or utility rates but planned to hire one police officer, reduce library funds, and raise administrators’ salaries.

The remainder of Thursday’s activities included guest speaker Tom Butch, a member of the Bay College Board of Trustees and a local attorney. Following lunch, a panel discussion took place involving township, city and county officials.

The day ended with a presentation by Kolich on the process of running for office or joining a committee.

– – –

Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,