Township open doors to residents’ suggestion over budget at meeting

— As a way to get residents’ input over the township’s budget, Flint Township held a Town Hall Meeting 6 p.m. Nov. 29 for all residents in the community.

Supervisor Karyn Miller began the meeting by touching on a few highlights in the township, including the new garbage contract with Richfield Management, the Genesee Valley Trail project, new businesses that have opened in the past year and recent developments regarding township roads.

Miller then delved into the matter of the township’s budget. Since 2008, Flint Township has experienced a decline in its revenues, going from $12,431,481 in 2008 to $11,594,656 in 2010.

The total decline in revenue from 2008- 2010 amounts to $836,825 and the total decline in expenses from 2008-2010 equals $780,439. In regards to the township’s fund balance, Miller said that in 2008, the fund balance represented 2.2 months of the budget and according to the Government Finance Officer’s Association (GFOA), the minimum unrestricted fund balance should equal at least two months of expenses to be considered viable.

“My goal was to get to three months. We are currently at 3.3 months in the fund balance for operations in November,” Miller said.

Due to spending cuts and freezes, the township added $429,078 to its fund balance at the end of 2009, and the 2010 budget has been under spent by $339,000 through November “and will be even higher by the end of the year,” she said. In regards to the spending cuts and freezes, MIller said the board brought a resolution to the table for the decision.

“We’re watching our spending, and I think the numbers show that,” she said. Miller said that 70 percent of the township’s budget is for personnel and 30 percent is discretionary.

Miller also cited the declining property values and taxes in the township — an area that many residents are all too well familiar with. “Our revenue from taxes has declined,” Miller said.

Citing the example of a house valued at $135,000 in 2007, Miller said that house’s 2010 taxable value is $100,000 which means a reduction in tax revenue of $1,066 and a cumulative tax reduction of $2,173.

Miller than showed the audience what the township’s budget would look like if there were no layoffs. By 2013, Flint Township would only have a end-of-year fund balance of $266,635, “which is not enough to operate,” she said. In 2014, the township’s fund balance would be negative $1,890,295. “We can’t start in the deficit,” Miller said.

As a counter to the first budget, Miller then showed audiences what the scenario would be for a budget with layoffs. By 2014, the township’s end-of-year fund balance would be $42,024, which is not enough to operate. By 2015, it would be $1,908,637 in the hole and by 2016, $4,107,784 in the negative. The budget also calls for a reduction of three full-time firefighters, four police officers, one fulltime clerical position and two, full-time non-union positions. In regards to the non-union positions, two, full-time nonunion positions are budgeted as part-time for all of 2011.

“I’ve given this budget to all the trustees. There is a public hearing on Dec. 6 and then the board will vote to adopt it,” Miller said. “This wont’ happen unless the trustees adopt it. The board and I want to hear what the residents’ priorities are.”

The floor was then turned over to residents, and several, including business owners, stepped forward to voice their concerns over the state of the township and where it is headed. Chuck Hughes admitted revenue is a problem and suggested Flint Township change its name because “it’s tied to Flint.” Citing when Pontiac Township changed its name to Auburn Hills, Hughes said the solution for Flint Township is to become a city.

Citing the proposed cuts and layoffs to the budget, resident Cliff Johnson said the cuts were good, but more needed to be down.

“To avoid a state takeover, we need to take drastic measures,” he said. “The township will have to follow suit (of other municipalities) and layoff people we don’t want to layoff. We can’t get into the negative. What matters is this township and its existence, free of a state takeover.”

Longtime resident Ken Grover told the audience he would not like to see the services of the township’s “excellent” police department, fire department and employees be cut, and he read off a previous list of the 14, highest-paid salaries in the township. Grover did not cite names or job titles when listing the salaries, and he also stated that he had a copy from 2009 of all the people who drew a paycheck from Flint Township.

“Our infrastructure has to remain and be maintained,” he said. “Cut all the pay by 10 percent of all employees. The more they lay off, the more detrimental is will be to the township.

In response, Miller said the solution of decreasing employees’ salaries by 10 percent was not easy due to the five unions in the township. “We are obligated to honor those contracts until they are changed,” she said. “While it’s easy to say cut all, we still can’t because we would need to negotiate contracts.”

Miller also stated she gave up her gas stipend, which amounted to $2,000 a year, along with not retaining a confidential secretary or deputy supervisor. “I’m trying to led by example,” she said. Miller mentioned that the salaries of board members, who are paid officials, could not be touched according to state law.

“Board members are elected officials, and they work for us,” Johnson said in response. “If they don’t do that, maybe we need to get new management come election time and get people who will balance the budget and get us on the right track.”

One of the final audience members to speak was Don Conway, president of the Carman-AInsworth Community Schools Board of Education.

“We have wonderful assets and we have a dire need for revenue,” he said. “I’m a former business owner who sold my business because I fell victim of cash flow. There is a lot of potential here. We have a senior center that is a jewel, and Carman- AInsworth schools is a diverse school with more than 74 countries represented.”

Citing the district’s declining enrollment and that 87 percent of its budget is tied up in personnel, Conway said members of the financial sector were missing from the audience.

“Currently, they are part of the problem, but they can be part of the solution. They all benefit from us,” he said. “You can only cut so far, folks. The solution is to raise revenue by supporting local businesses. We need to bring the financial community to the table to be a part of this discussion.”

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