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Village coffers swell to $500K, roads eyed

June 30, 2010 - Ortonville- In a time when municipalities everywhere seem to be struggling financially, the village is an oddity.

The council passed a 2010-2011 budget Monday night without a single cut— a word that has become commonplace to the Brandon Township Board as well as the Brandon School District. In fact, the village council has a fund balance that could be the envy of many— nearly half a million dollars, or 97 percent of the budget, said Village Manager Larry Brown.

"Not that the budget wasn't a struggle, but we realized going in that property tax revenue would be reduced and state revenue sharing would be down," said Brown, who previously served the village as treasurer. "We didn't make any cuts, just had to allocate it carefully."

The 2010-2011 budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 calls for $515,550 in revenue, with matching expenditures. Last year, the village brought in $574,000 in revenue, with expenditures of $450,000. Brown attributes the surplus to having no Department of Public Works for part of the year, as well as no village manager for a period of time.

The village went without a formal DPW from February 2009, when DPW employees Bill Prince and Kevin Booms were fired, until September 2009, when they hired one full-time DPW director. Part-time employees supplement the full-time employee and avoid the possibility of a union.

The village also didn't have a village manager for more than a month last fall after the retirement of Ed Coy. When they hired Bill Sprague, who recently resigned, he was given no healthcare or retirement benefits, saving the village roughly $30,000.

While the village benefitted financially from not hiring a DPW staff for several months, Brown said it created a backlog of work that still needs to be done and he laughed at the suggestion that the surplus might be used to cut taxes for residents.

"Now is not the time to cut taxes— the roads in the village require much, much more than (the fund balance) to be repaired as we would like them to be," he said. "The council will be addressing the specifics of what to do with the fund balance— how much to retain and how much to spend on capital improvements. It won't go far, but it's better than not having anything and in this economic climate, we want to maintain a strong fund balance."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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