Township’s 2014 proposed budget approval stalled

FLINT TWP. — The township could be flirting with its version of a government shutdown after failing its first attempt to pass the proposed 2014 budget at its Monday night meeting.

In a 3-3 vote, the motion to approve the $11.528 million budget failed, Trustee Bart Vert was absent.

Supervisor Karyn Miller said the budget will be presented again at the board’s Dec. 2 meeting because a balanced budget must be approved by the end of the year in order for the township to legally be able to pay its bills starting Jan. 1. The township has one other regularly scheduled board meeting December 16 or would need to hold a special meeting if the budget is not approved then.

“We are at an impasse,’’ Miller said, noting that she has asked trustees weekly for questions or advice on setting the budget. “We have done our best.”

In a lengthy discussion preceding the split vote, several trustees gave reasons for voting down the proposed budget.

Trustee Belenda Parker said she did not support the budget as presented because she is not in favor of using cash reserves to balance the budget.

Expenses next year exceed rev- enues by about $1.77 million. To meet that deficit, the budget calls for using money from the township’s $4.378 million fund balance..

Parker said she went through the budget line by line.

“There are deeper cuts that could be made,’’ she said. “Until that is done, I cannot support it.”

Trustees Frank Kasle and George Menoutes expressed similar concerns.

“When you have lost income, you have to reduce expenses,’’ Kasle said. “We have estimates from the comptroller that based on what we are spending now we will be out of fund balance in the middle of 2016. So in 2016 we will be out of business unless we take some drastic actions, unless we reduce expenses or increase income.”

Citing deep cuts made by other governing bodies facing similar budget crunches, Kasle made a motion to cut ten percent from every budgeted expense across the board which he estimated would save about million dollars and require using much less of the fund balance.

His motion failed 4-2.

Comptroller Beth Takacs said about 70 percent of the township’s budget is for personnel so reducing staff – probably as many as 15 people – would be the only way to cut one million dollars from the budget.

Menoutes questioned proposed budget increases that include paying $500 signing bonus to each full-time employee and also funding a life insurance policy for on-call firefighters.

Kasle also cited ten percent pay cuts conceded this year by workers in the Carman-Ainsworth School District to make necessary budget cuts.

Clerk Kim Courts countered that she personally knows people working for the school district who are losing their homes or filing bankruptcy because of the income reduction.

Miller said she would not ask employees to make more sacrifices. She noted that they have not had pay raises in four years and already are contributing to health care costs.

She also said that the township attorney has advised that with nearly $5 million in cash reserves, the township would likely lose if labor negotiations wind up in arbitration.

Miller also noted that despite losing $3 million in revenues since 2008, due to declining property value, the township fund balance has increased.

The proposed 2014 budget however is about a half-million-dollars higher than the estimated $10.557 estimated 2013 budget.

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