FLINT TWP. —For awhile there, it looked like the township’s 2013 general fund budget was not going to pass muster at the board meeting Monday night.
But Trustee Frank Kasle changed his mind after an extensive board discussion and joined Supervisor Karyn Miller and Clerk Kim Courts in passing the budget in a close 3 -2 vote. Trustees Belenda Parker and Barb Vert voted no, after voicing concerns, and trustee George Menoutes and Treasurer Sandra Wright were absent.
Reluctant to pass a deficit budget, Kasle at first announced that he was going to vote against the $10.9 million proposed budget which exceeds revenues by nearly $1.2 million, with the difference met by a dwindling fund balance.
After discussing lines items such as contracted services, records archiving and building improvements, Kasle questioned why expenses were going up instead of down.
“We have not attempted to get a handle on our budget at all, in my opinion,” Kasle said. “We cannot continue to approve a budget like this year after year because, according to projections (from the controller), we will be broke at the end of 2015 unless we reduce our expenses substantially.”
Besides the budget deficit, both police and road millages, which each contribute nearly $400,000 in annual revenue, are expiring in 2015 and 2016, he said.
Kasle mentioned staff reductions and benefit concessions as possible budget cutting options. The alternative would be to find ways to substantially increase revenues including asking taxpayers to approve millages for fire, police and general operations.
“Unless we start doing some of these things we are going to be behind the eight ball,” Kasle said. Among her objections to the budget, Parker questioned paying increasing fees for trade inspections instead of letting the state handle them.
Tracey Tucker, building supervisor, said the township’s fees are similar to state fees and that it would mean losing control over what happens in the township.
Parker said she was uncomfortable with the budget and suggested postponing approval until next month.
Vert said she objected to “miscellaneous” or blank line items and also questioned consistently high overtime expenses that need to be brought under control.
Faced with an approaching state mandated deadline to pass a balanced budget, Miller responded with some compelling arguments of her own.
Since she took office in 2008, she said that the board has reduced expenses by about $2 million, The board has been consistently cutting expenses but has known since 2009 that declining property taxes would lead to budget shortfall, she said.
“And here we are. What we anticipated would happen, what we budgeted for has happened,” Miller said. “Our revenue is not enough to pay all our expenses and we have to dip into the fund balance.”
Without lay-offs there is no other way to meet $10.9 million in expenses for the coming year, she said.
Key budget line items discussed included $30,000 to improve security in offices where township employees accept public money and also $25,000 to initiate a records archiving effort because of a risk to irreplaceable old records in case of a fire or other catastrophe. “It is imperative that we start archiving,” Miller said, noting that other townships have already completed the process that they have not even started.
She also noted that a 14 percent Increase in health insurance premiums account for rising 2013 expenses.
Kasle stressed the need for greater employee concessions in upcoming contract negotiations. Not much can be done about 2013 but going forward the board has to take a hard line on 2014, he said.
Without significant changes, the township is facing a projected $2 million deficit and a $3.5 million fund balance for 2014, he said.