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Village budget won't include layoffs, higher taxes

May 26, 2010 - Sweeping municipal layoffs, tax hikes and cuts to services.

Sound all too familiar?

Not to the Village of Lake Orion. At the village council's May 24 meeting, members unanimously approved a 2010-11 budget that didn't include any of those things.

Millage rates will stay at last year's levels, according to Village Manager Paul Zelenak. The general operating rate will be (9.8), township rate will be (1.9832), water bond debt will be (1.0939) and road bond debt will be (1.6806) for a total of 11.7832 mills.

(A mill is equal to $1 per $1,000 of taxable value.)

To make up a $760,000 difference between total expenditures ($4,644,711) and revenues ($3,884,900), Zelenak said several employee groups took wage and benefit concessions, including all three department heads – Zelenak, Police Chief Jerry Narsh and Department of Public Works Super Mike Olsen.

A few part-time, seasonal positions were cut, ordinance officer hours were reduced and instead of hiring a new fulltime deputy treasurer, Zelenak says the village is looking for someone part time. The village will also repair equipment instead of replacing it, increase fees and reduce the number meetings with the attorney in attendance.

None of those reductions will affect services offered to the public, say both Zelenak and Village Council President Ken Van Portfliet.

The village will also utilize carry-over funds in individual areas of the budget, and $50,000 will be taken from fund balance, which is at $450,000, to help offset costs.

"Cutting any time from our staff is difficult because you have to find other ways to make that up," said Van Portfliet. "All of it has repercussions and requires a new answer to still maintain services."

He added, "Congratulations to the department heads, who did what they needed to do before we did it for them. That's great management and good teamwork by our staff."

But, says the council president, dark clouds loom on the horizon for tax revenues and census numbers, and the village should be even more diligent in planning for the future.

"We're trying to rely on predictions from the county level. It's just really hard to say. I almost want to take those numbers and reduce that by 10 percent. You can't be too prepared," he said, noting that new ideas and sharing services is going to be important.

Over the next four years, Zelenak says the village is looking to slice a cumulative $1 million from the budget.

"I don't think that, at the budget level, enough scrutiny is applied and enough questions are asked. A dollar saved now is a dollar for the future and we need to pay more attention to that," said Van Portfliet.

He added that services that were spared this year, like lifeguards at Green's Park, might be cut from the budget in the coming years.

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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