Fire dept. budget amendment headed to closed session

FLINT TWP. — It’s back to behind closed doors for the township Board of Trustees to make another decision about fire department business.

Presented at its meeting last week with a proposal to amend the fire department’s 2012 budget, the board voted 5-2 to table the decision and schedule a closed session with its attorney to discuss it.

With trustees George Menoutes and Frank Kasle voting against it, the board delayed proposed action to add about $155,000 to the “underfunded” fire department budget.

Based on a letter from controller Beth Takacs, township Supervisor Karyn Miller said the board had the choice of amending the budget shortfall or approving layoffs.

Menoutes moved to approve the proposed budget amendment because he “was not ready” to make layoffs but his motion was set aside by a motion by trustee Barb Vert to table it.

“There is new information here and I would like to go in with the attorney to closed session (to discuss it),” Vert said.

Treasurer Sandra Wright suggested also having Takacs present during that discussion.

Previous action on amending the fire budget was nullified at recent meetings while the board struggled to approve a contract with the firefighters union that took more than a year of negotiations before a tentative agreement was reached in mediation. The board twice rejected the proposed agreement before approving it after a closed session meeting with its attorney on Feb. 1.

Previously, the board voted to reduce the fire department budget by $210,000 when it approved the 2012 general fund budget back in October.

The board adopted a budget of $1,775,488 for the fire department, reduced from a proposed budget of $1,986,365. The requested amendment would take the budget back up to about $1,930,488.

In October, Kasle objected to the proposed fire department budget, citing concern for passing a deficit budget and seriously dwindling revenues the township is facing in coming years. He proposed that the fire department be reduced to $1,775,488 – the same amount budgeted in 2011.

“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,” Kasle said at that time.

The board also heard sharp criticism then during public comment from resident Ralph Lewis who questioned if the township could continue to afford a full-time fire department. He objected to the board passing a budget in which “expenses” exceeded revenues by nearly $1 million.

“Using fund balance money … should not be an option to balance this budget,” Lewis said then. “Anyone who approves it should be recalled.”

Last week, the township board also approved a consolidation study to consider shared services with Swartz Creek and Mundy Township that will look at the fire department as well as the police and building departments.

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