FLINT TWP. — Concerns about passing a deficit budget led to a reduction in proposed fire department spending before the Township Board of
Trustees passed its 2012 budget at its Monday night meeting.
Echoing concerns by a resident, Trustee Frank Kasle questioned a $210,000 increase in spending for the fire department next year.
Township supervisor Karyn Miller attributed it to uncertainty due to unresolved contract negotiations with the firefighters union which have not been settled for 2011 or 2012.
Miller said the board adopted the fire budget in
2011 expecting to receive concessions during contract negotiation with the firefighters that have not happened.
Firefighters have made some contractual changes such as giving up their second vacation calendar that saved an estimated $30- $40,000 but there has been “no meeting of the minds” beyond that, Miller said.
“So this $1.9 million projected for the fire department is for all the expenses to date,” she said of expected costs for 12 firefighters.
The proposed 2012 budget draws from a $4.2 million fund balance to make up an $829,745 difference between about $10.2 million in revenues and $11 million in expenses.
After discussion, Kasle moved to amend the proposed budget to reduce the $1.9 million allocation for the fire department back to $1,775.488 – the same amount budgeted in 2011.
Kasle also said he hoped contract negotiations with the firefighters could be settled by the end of this year.
“If we cannot negotiate a contract … that allows us to meet that budgetary figure then you’re going to have to consider some other alternatives,” he said.
In a five to one vote, the board approved the fire budget amendment with only Trustee Belenda Parker dissenting.
In a 5-2 vote to approve the overall 2012 Budget Appropriations Act Resolution, Parker and trustee Barb Vert voted no.
Board action followed a strongly-worded criticism during public comment by township resident Ralph Lewis who questioned proposed spending in several categories including code enforcement, economic development, health insurance for trustees and the size of the fire department.
He cited the Burton fire department which is reportedly being run by only two full-time people as well as other municipalities operating with a smaller fire staff.
“ Why can’t we do this? The township can no longer afford the luxury of a full-time fire department,’’ he said.
Lewis praised the board for holding the line financially this year but said it has not previously approved a final budget where expenses exceeded revenues. Lewis said he did not approve of using the fund balance to make up “nearly a million dollars’’ difference.
“It would be a great thing if you would balance this budget with revenues that are available,’’ Lewis said.
“In summary, if you approve this proposed budget you are shirking your responsibility for which we voted you into office,’’ he said. “Using fund balance money … should not be an option to balance this budget. Anyone who approves it should be recalled.”