FLINT TWP. — With two trustees still steadfastly opposing, the township board passed its disputed 2014 budget Monday night. Budget approval failed last month in a split vote, raising the question whether it would pass muster by the end of the year in time to legally meet next year’s expenses.
Trustee Frank Kasle, who was among the dissenters last time, said he felt he had no choice but to vote for the $11.528 million budget in order to meet payroll obligations the board also approved Monday night.
“The budget for 2014 that the supervisor wants us to approve has an excess of expenses over revenues of $1.7 million,” Kasle said. “We can do that because we have a surplus.”
But he stressed that that fund balance is steadily dwindling because it has been relied upon for the past few years to balance the budget.
The township general fund had a $5 million fund balance at the beginning of 2013 which is projected to be down to $2.6 million at the end of 2014.
“If we keep going this route, probably be the end of 2015 or in 2016, our surplus will be gone and then we can welcome a (state-appointed emergency) financial manager,” Kasle said. “We have got to get a handle on this budget and we have not gotten a handle on it.”
Last month, his suggestion to make ten percent cuts across the board was voted down.
“I find myself having to cast a yes vote, as presented,” Kasle said. “This board just approved new union contracts for 2014-15 that spends the money. We can’t approve these contracts and turn around and not budget for them.. It is like buying a car and not paying for it.”
Trustee George Menoutes, who also voted down the proposed budget last month, also changed his vote this time, citing concerns about potential state intervention and penalties and not being able to pay bills including for police and fire services.
Trustee Belenda Parker stuck to her no vote without comment. Last time she said she thought deeper cuts could be made. Trustee Barb Vert who was absent from the last meeting also voted no without comment.
The 2014 budget is about $550,000 higher than the $10.5 million anticipated 2013 budget and also more than the $10.6 million 2012 budget. Anticipated revenues are about $9.7 million compared to the $11.5 million in expenses.
The biggest line item increase is 38.7 percent for Board of Review expenses. In the past few years, the township has been experiencing increases in disputed tax bills from both residents and businesses.
Election Commission expenses will be up 26.42 percent, Building Department expenses will rise 16.5 percent and insurances 16.61 percent.
The biggest cost reductions are for Township Hall and Grounds, reduced 61.33 percent; the library down 46.84 percent; Professional Services, 21.68 percent and Township Board expenses down 19.59 percent.
Supervisor Karyn Miller stressed that efforts have been made to lower expenses.
Over the past five years, as revenues have shrunk due largely to declining property values, revenues have been reduced by about $3 million, she said. The township has 15 fewer full-time employees compared to 2008. Several full-time jobs have been reduced to part-time to save benefit expenses. Police and fire staffs are smaller.
Also recently refinancing the police department bonds is expected to save about a half-million dollars.
Miller also said the township’s credit rating has increases based on its good financial practices.
Personnel expenses account for about 75 percent of the township’s budget. It is a tall order to cut employee expenses and still maintain a level of service, particularly in the fire and police departments, she said.
The 2014 budget shows budget increases of 8 percent for the police department and 2.82 percent for the fire department.