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MTA opinion says twp. can't legally fund job fair

April 18, 2012 - Oxford Township was all set to provide the seed money for a community job fair scheduled to take place Friday, June 15 at a location to be determined.

However, an opinion from the Michigan Townships Association (MTA) indicated that's not legal.

"I am not aware of any statutory authority for townships to fund a job fair, so I would suggest that providing funding would not be a lawful expenditure," wrote Jim Beelen, members information liaison for the MTA, in an April 12 e-mail. "If the township feels strongly that it wants to appropriate funds for this project, it should consult with its attorney before doing so."

Last week, township officials voted 3-2 to underwrite the job fair for an amount not to exceed $2,000, pending receipt of a legal opinion on whether such an expenditure is permissible.

Trustee Sue Bellairs raised the issue.

"I don't know if that's a legal expenditure," she said. "That's a donation. I don't think we can't do that . . . I don't think that we can take tax dollars and spend it like that."

The idea for the job fair was spawned by the township's Economic Development Subcommittee (EDSC) and is being spearheaded by the Oxford Chamber of Commerce.

Township Trustee Mike Spisz, who serves on the EDSC, approached the board about fronting the funds necessary for the event in order to "get the ball rolling on this."

"You can't start a fire without fuel, heat and air, so we're asking for some fuel," said EDSC Chairman Jack Curtis. "We want to get it going with these funds."

The money is needed to cover the cost of a venue, advertising, tables and chairs, decorations and miscellaneous items.

Businesses and vendors would be charged $75 to have a table at the fair and the expectation was this money would have been used to repay any funds fronted by the township.

Curtis noted that both the Oxford Chamber of Commerce and Oxford Downtown Development Authority are also seeking funding for the event.

Locations being considered for the job fair include Oxford High School and the Boulder Pointe Banquet Center. Oxford Public Library Director Bryan Cloutier offered his facility as a potential venue if it's available on that date.

Curtis explained the idea for a job fair came about as a way to be "responsive" to the needs of local businesses and the difficulties they're currently encountering.

"We have several businesses here in town that cannot find help," he said. "They come to us and they say, 'What can you do to help us – your biggest taxpayers in the community?'

"Those taxpayers in this community have asked us to do something to help them. We're asking this board to help us help them."

"I think it's a good idea," noted township Clerk Curtis Wright.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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