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Brandon Township accomplishments

January 18, 2012 - Dear Editor,

A more optimistic future for Brandon Township is the result of the diligent work put forth by the Township Board, employees and volunteers. The beginning of a new year presents an opportunity to reflect on past efforts and accomplishments. In 2011 the Brandon Township Board of Trustees worked very hard to execute the budget plan that was put into place as a result of intensive strategic planning that took place in 2010. The effects of a tanking economy were evident in 2009. Seeing that the former budget was driving the township toward insolvency and following recommendations from the county, the township moved to a 3-year budget plan process. Consequently, our budget planning was recognized as an example of "Best Practices" in the April 2011 issue of the Michigan Township News.

Determined to reduce spending and find alternate revenue streams to offset revenue reductions the township board's objectives were to maintain as many services as possible while building back our Rainy Day Fund. Increasing millage rates would only be suggested as a last resort. Measures to achieve our objectives included: reducing township staff from 17 full-time employees in 2008 to 11 full-time employees in 2012; reducing police by 3.5 officers (one position is shared with Independence); reducing the fire department by 2 full-time employees; adjusting health care benefits; re-negotiating service contracts; revising Clean-Up Days; routing cable surplus and cell tower funds through the general fund; revising Building Department fees to cover costs; forming committee groups to support Recreation Programs; using CDBG funding, Title 5 funding and volunteers to improve our Senior Center and keep it running; and streamlining the tax bill process (we now accept online tax payments through the county). Unfortunately, it was necessary to increase the Fire Department Equipment and Housing budget by .3 mills in 2011 which is still .2 mills less than it was in 2006.

While property values fell close to 39% we experienced a reduction in property tax revenue between 2008 and 2011 of 27%. We had 1 new home start in 2011 compared to 5 in 2010. Last year we welcomed Dollar General's new store into the township. The amount of state tax revenue sharing the township general fund receives rebounded back sooner than anticipated in 2011. This allowed the general fund to become stable and gave us the ability to restore our depleted rainy day fund to acceptable levels. Although property tax revenues appear to be stabilizing, the 3-year budget plans for Police and Fire remain challenging.

In lieu of the continued economic downturn the township was able to add almost 14 miles of gravel to secondary roads over the past 2 years, complete the Township Park grant project, re-bond the Library debt for a lower millage rate, and apply 5 applications of chloride to our gravel roads in 2011. We were able to keep the Brandon Township Community Park looking sharp (with the greatly appreciated donations we received from area businesses), host community events and maintain a vibrant Senior Center.

In 2011 we moved our Public Broadcast Station (OTV – Channel 99) from the High School to the Village. This was a huge undertaking. In the process we were able to make improvements to the station. One major improvement was to finally resolve the sound quality issue we had been experiencing for many years. The move also provided us the opportunity to make improvements: new shows, better technology, more community interaction, and the introduction of commercials to promote Brandon Township and the station.

The future for Brandon Township is once again looking positive. The township plans to continue its pattern of conservative spending while building reserves, provide the services our residents are accustomed to and plan for projects to improve our township. We experienced a slight increase in participation for most of our Recreation Programs in 2011 and anticipate numbers to increase for 2012. The Edna Burton Senior Center will receive some remodeling and added space. We will continue to provide current levels of police and fire protection to assure our environment is safe. We are prepared to keep our Emergency Response Times low. Our CERT team volunteers will continue to provide safety checks for our seniors. We will maintain our current ISO rating of 5 to keep insurance rates low for our residents. There is funding put aside for additional gravel and we have been communicating with Consumers Power in regard to bringing natural gas into the areas of the township without gas mains. The economy has thrown a monkey wrench into Township operations but because of the great community in which we live we will persevere. It's getting Better in Brandon!

Kathy Thurman

Brandon Township Supervisor

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