July 04, 2012 - Orion Township received the highest accolades in its 2011 audit report given by Rana Emmons of Post, Smythe, Lutz and Ziel on June 18, but is $6.3 million in an unrestricted fund balance too much?
Supervisor JoAnn Van Tassel talks about the aduit. Photo by T. Keiser (click for larger version)
Township officials don't think so.
"It would at first glance, but forecast out a couple years and you're going to see that's going down," said Township Clerk Penny Shults "That reserve continues to be eroded because the tax base is declining annually."
Independence Township and Oxford Township's General Fund balances are around $2 million.
Shults said they are also anticipating the schools to ask for help paying for the school liaison and different things like that.
"I know a lot of people think we have seen a rainy day, but we have not. We could possibly have a new president and that could have a change in the way things are being done," she said. "A decline in economy or an increase, we don't know, but we have got to be prepared for a rainy day."
Supervisor JoAnn Van Tassel said residential has pretty much stabilized and in some areas is going up.
"Where we are taking a big hit is in the industrial and commercial properties," Van Tassel said. "That will continue to be an area of concern because of proposal A."
The audit stated that taxable value decreased approximately 17 percent in 2011.
Also according to the audit the township's total governmental funds combined equaled $15,054,236, which in comparison of the prior year was a decrease of $3,490,193. Of that amount the unrestricted fund balance is roughly 44 percent. The township also has $6.1 million restricted for future capital projects and $2.1 million for fire and police protection.
Shults said it's also good they have the high fund balance incase millage rates don't pass in the next election. The August ballot will contain renewals for both fire and police, as well as an increase millage for police.
"If voters don't approve the increase for police it will have to be supplemented out of the general fund," Shults said. "That can't be carried on for too long, otherwise we'd be in a deficit in general fund as well."
Trustee Mike Flood Jr. agreed.
"If we don't get that extra millage, by 2015 we'll be dipping into subsidies for roughly $2 million," he said. "There goes one-third of your savings right there."
Another thing that could hurt the township pointed out Flood, would be if the state does away with personal property tax, which is something that is currently being discussed.
"That's a chunk of tax money we might lose," he said.
Van Tassel agreed.
"It would mean a decrease, but not what I would consider a significant decrease," she said. "But there is a potential."
The township is also expecting an additional $150,000 in 2012. Unlike other communities, the audit said state shared revenue has increased over the past several years and is expected to increase in 2012 due in part to the increase in population from the census of as well as a contribution from the Orion Community Cable Communications Commission for the use of a portion on the new Orion Center.
Van Tassel said the township has done well, because they've watched their spending.
"If you watch the pennies the dollars will take care of themselves," she said. "We watch our pennies."
One of things she said she did when appointed supervisor after former Supervisor Matt Gibb left for Oakland County was require all purchases to have sealed bids.
"When you go for sealed bids the pencils get a little sharper," she said. "We went out on sealed bids for fertilizer and saved anywhere between 15 to 20 percent."
Van Tassel attributed their success to her staff and fellow co-workers.
I think we got a good group of employees here," added Van Tassel. "I think we provide very good service to the people of the township."
The township itself runs on less than one mill, total mills for the whole township is around 28, said Shults and would disagree with anyone who said they had too big of a fund balance.
"You would be hard pressed to find any community in Oakland County that runs as efficiently on the millage we run on," she said. "We are managing the dollars well and are good stewards of what's been entrusted to us, part of that stewardship is preparing for rainy day."
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.