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Police, fire millages unchanged in 2011; budget cuts eyed

August 11, 2010 - By Susan Bromley

Staff Writer

Brandon Twp.- Residents will see no change in the amount of taxes they pay for police and fire services in 2011.

Supervisor Kathy Thurman said at the Aug. 9 budget workshop meeting that Fire Chief David Kwapis told her the fire department was fine with the millage currently levied. The board was considering levying the maximum allowable police millage— 3.5286— but the consensus of the board is that the mill levied should remain at 3.25, which it has been for the past three years.

The board will officially vote on the millage rate in September.

"The board is trying to be conscientious of the economy and the toll it's taking on our taxpayers," said Thurman.

The decision could have negative repercussions, however, as Thurman added that it could mean the loss of an additional police officer next year. In June, the township board unanimously voted to eliminate both the desk officer at the Brandon substation as well as the school liaison officer position. Township officials are also considering consolidation of police service with neighboring communities through their contract with the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

The decision to keep the current millage rate should please residents who recently responded to the township fiscal priorities survey, inserted in The Citizen last month. While the results haven't been fully tabulated, Thurman said overall, residents are rating police, fire and EMS as very important.

"It looks as though there is a preference to cut and reduce before increasing fees or millages, but not necessarily in the fire and police departments," she said. "For fire and police, they don't want to reduce and they don't want to pay more." The fiscal priorities survey asked township residents to rank the importance of 13 services currently offered, including fire, police, recreation, roads and senior citizen programs. Additionally, the survey seeks opinions on reductions and eliminations in expenditures as well as possible fees and millage increases the township board is considering to increase revenue.

The township board has been conducting budget workshops for several months in an effort to balance the 2010 budget and develop a 3-year projected budget as tax revenues decrease and expenses increase. The township is expecting at least a $250,000 shortfall over the next three years.

At Monday's budget workshop meeting, board members came up with an additional $80,000 in cuts that they will consider, including charging a $10 fee to residents for large refuse collection; restructuring of employee health care benefits; reducing a treasurer's office position from full-time to part-time; reducing elected officials' wages by 10 percent in 2012; and making cuts to supplies and maintenance and mileage in the recreation department.

The next budget workshop meeting will be at 5:15 p.m., Aug. 30, at the township library, 304 South St. Sheila Ronis, an associate professor of management at Walsh College who has acted as facilitator at the workshop meetings since March at no charge to the township, will not be present.

"She sees we are implementing the results of the process in the right direction and doesn't feel it's necessary for her to facilitate any longer," said Thurman.

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