September 12, 2012 - Independence Township's fire, police, safety paths, water, and sewer departments will have more money to spend in 2013. In a 3-2 vote, the township board eliminated administrative fees for next year during a budget meeting on August 21.
Clerk Barb Pallotta and Treasurer Curt Carson were opposed to getting rid of the fees while Trustees Neil Wallace, Larry Rosso, and David Lohmeier were in favor of the change.
The township charged police, fire, safety paths, sewer, and water departments about $250,000 in administrative fees in 2012. They covered clerical services such as payroll, assessing, medical benefits programs, and tax collection. Now, the township's general fund balance will bear those costs.
"There is a general fund millage; that millage is intended to pay for administrative services," said Wallace, who proposed the change. "It's not fair to have a general fund millage and at the same time be taking money from these departments."
Treasurer Carson disagreed, "If we eliminate them totally we will create an undue burden on our general fund."
From Wallace's perspective, "If there's not enough money in the general fund to cover these things, then what [the board] should do is go to the public and say we need more money to run the basic administration of the township."
In other words, the township would put a millage increase on the ballot. No board members were in favor of asking the public for more mills.
Carson is concerned that while each department will be able to use the money that would otherwise go to administrative fees, they might lose in other ways.
"In a grant application, the grant will pay up to 10 percent for administrative fees. If you're not paying administrative fees, you can't request that. We can't potentially pick that up from either state or federal grants," he said.
On the other hand, "the departments will have the additional resources they need to perform the functions citizens expect from them," said Wallace.
For Wallace, eliminating administrative fees was about transparency. During the meeting, he wondered if the fire millage increase would have passed, "on Aug. 7 if you included [ballot] language that said $93,040 of the money you're voting on will be diverted to the general fund. I think we would have lost the increase."
"The public wants to know how every dime is used," Rosso said. "I see credibility is involved here."
"It's very transparent in the budget. It's never been a secret. We've openly discussed it numerous times as well," said Carson. "Almost all communities around us charge administrative fees."
Waterford, for instance, charges $1,043,557.
"I'm not impressed with what other governments are doing," Wallace said. "We're a community a cut above in many respects, and this should be one of them." The township holds budget meetings the second Tuesday of each month.
Clarkston News reporter