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Twp. fund balance grows; employee wages restored



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December 07, 2011 - Brandon Twp.- Employees at the township offices will have their wages restored to 2008 levels.

At their Dec. 5 meeting, the township board unanimously approved a motion to reinstate full-time employees' wages to the levels they were in 2008, prior to a 5 percent wage cut. The cut will be reversed effective Jan. 1.

The decision was made after a review of the general fund budget showed the township is in better financial shape than anticipated. The board approved at their meeting a 2012 general fund budget with total revenues and expenditures of $1,779,972.72.

Township officials are expecting to have a fund balance of at least $500,000, or 30 percent of the budget, next year.

"We are reaching our goals more quickly than we anticipated," said Supervisor Kathy Thurman.

The township has two fund balances—one an undesignated fund balance that currently stands at about $161,000 and is kept in a checking account. The second "committed" fund balance is kept in savings and is currently at $151,724. Thurman said those balances will show an increase with the 2011 audit results, which will be revealed next June. The increase is due to a state constitutional sales tax reimbursement to the township this year that totaled $948,360. The township has only budgeted for $825,000. To the $123,000 increase, Thurman said another $50,000 can be added for not going over the budgeted amount.

"Our combined carry forward will be close to half a million dollars," she said. "Our goal was to exceed 20 percent of our fund balance. We estimate we will be at 30 percent fund balance next year."

The board set their current goals in 2009 during strategic budget planning in which they established a 3-year plan.

The board made several cuts to reach this point, eliminating several positions at the township offices and reducing hours for some employees. The last of those cuts will take place in January with the elimination of the full-time recreation administrative assistant position.

In preparation for the reduced staffing in that department, the board approved last month a change in hours for the recreation department. Beginning in January, the recreation office will be open from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

Recreation Director Fred Waybrant said registrations have remained fairly steady, with about 1,500 to 1,700 children participating in recreation offerings during the course of a year.

"We deal with about 6,000 to 10,000 people per year—parents, site directors, officials, kids— with every single thing this department does, including special events," Waybrant said.

During a workshop Nov. 28, Thurman said the board decided not to make any additional changes for now to the recreation department. Also at the meeting, the board discussed reduction of salary for the supervisor, clerk and treasurer.

"The consensus of the board was to not reduce the officials' wages," Thurman said. "If we were to reduce the workload of the officials, we would have to hire more employees to cover that workload. There would be no cost savings for taking such a measure."

She added that the long-term budget plan called for a 10 percent reduction to the current salaries, beginning for the new board's term, in November 2012. However, after a comparison of officials' wages in similar-sized townships, the board has decided instead to keep salaries at the level they have been at since 2008. Currently, the annual salary for the supervisor is $55,518; the clerk and treasurer are each compensated $48,577. None of the officials currently accept benefits.

While Thurman is pleased with the general fund status, she remains concerned about the police and fire budgets, funded solely by decreasing property tax revenue.

"Funding of police and fire will be part of our discussions after the audit comes back and we will look at long-term budget planning for police and fire when we do our budget workshops next spring." She added that while property tax is down, it may not be as bad as anticipated. The township budgeted for a 5 percent decrease in property tax revenue, but a county sales study shows it may be less than 2 percent.

While there are some positive economic signs in the township and office employees regained wages, they can expect to pay more in healthcare in the future. The township board approved a healthcare plan in which all township employees, including those at the fire department (where wages have remained frozen since 2008), will pay significantly higher co-pays for emergency room, urgent care, and office visits.

The approved healthcare plan opts out of the state's plan requiring government employees to contribute 20 percent for their healthcare costs; however, township employees may soon join the ranks of employees, private and public sector alike, who make these contributions.

"Next year, the healthcare committee needs to look at making a serious contribution for employees," said Trustee David King. "I can't find anyone in this town who doesn't make some contribution to their healthcare."

Trustee Cheryl Gault agreed.

"I would like to see participation from staff," she said. "At my office, we pay 30 percent (of healthcare costs) now."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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