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Township looks to hire budget consultant



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August 11, 2010 - As a way to speed the budget process up and get things rolling, Independence Township Board of Trustees is considering hiring a budget coordinator.

"It's someone who's supposed to vary mechanical and analytical spins on the budget to bring to life various alternatives and compare them against each other," said Trustee David Lohmeier. "So we can make a final decision on the 2011 budget."

The man for consideration is the City of Troy's John Lamerato, assistant manager/ finance and administration. Lamerato currently has a contract with Township as "Fact Finder" for the Teamsters Union.

The board held off making a decision at the Aug. 3 meeting in order for the Clerk Shelagh VanderVeen, Treasurer Curt Carson, and Supervisor Dave Wagner to sit down together and discuss it. The board scheduled to discuss it further at their Aug. 10 budget meeting.

"If these three administrative officers are not on the same page it's going to make it more difficult to get a resolution on which direction we ought to go," Trustee Larry Rosso said.

Wagner said the three full-time met with Lamerato last Friday and had a "long conversation with him."

"I don't know if he's interested in assisting us at all, he went on vacation this week and I'm going to meet with him a week from today," Wagner said, on Monday. "He's going to think about it he's not quite sure what he can do or not do to give any assistance to us."

After sitting down with Lamerato, Carson said he had a "much better understanding" for wanting to bring him on board than he did when it was explained at the prior board meeting.

"At this point it's not any major deal. The supervisor has a budget, which will have been worked on with the finance director," he said. "We want to have someone from the outside take a look at it."

According to Lohmeier, part of the problem has been because they haven't had a budget from the supervisor yet to work on.

"We've had a lot of work and understanding where we've got opportunities within departments, but we haven't had the first draft cut that Dave's recommended," he said. "The requirement is he has to propose his draft budget, and we start iterating on it."

Wagner said he and Hendricks "just about" have the budget done, which he hopes to present in the next couple of weeks. He too would have liked to had a budget a month or two ago, but he said the "shortage of help" put a damper on things.

"We have one finance director and her assistant has been out on leave, she's out for three months, so it's sort of put a real crunch on things," he said. "When you only have one person it's hard when they're being pulled a dozen different ways."

Trustee Mark Petterson agreed with Lohmeier, a few of the departments have given "their best laid plans," but the rest he said were "fantasy numbers."

"Basically all our budget meetings have been nothing but creating sound bytes," he said. "It's just something for show for TV and we've gotten nowhere."

As far as cost, Wagner imagines they would pay him his current hourly rate of $75 per hour that they pay him for his work with the Teamsters. He said he presumes it would take 10 to 15 hours of Lamerato's time.

"If we were talking about bringing someone on and paying $20,000 to $40,000, I would be completely opposed to it," he said. We can't afford to spend any money right now and we have the quality of people here that are able to do it."

Petterson said he was opposed to it and said the board already has spent enough money when Human Resource Director Carol Gabris was hired full-time position, $64,150 salary with benefits at department head level.

"How many more people are we going to hire to do people's jobs," Petterson asked. "There should be no reason why we don't come up with our budget on our own and stop our fighting and our own political posturing for our own favorite departments."

Wagner hopes if they hire Lamerato, it will help the process go "smoother" and they won't have what they did last year where "there is a huge debate over every line item." If they don't hire, then it falls back to the board.

"As seven people who were elected to do this job will have to step up to the plate and do what's right for the citizens and the community," he said.

Lohmeier said he "doesn't care" if it makes him look bad by hiring an third party to come in and help.

"I would feel much worse as how I would look if I didn't have a budget and I'm firing people in December, my job is to get the budget done and approve a balanced budget," he said. "Right now with our internal resources it isn't working, so I'm supporting going to the next level and doing something else to get it done."

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.
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