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Township hires Troy consultant

Consultant expected to help with budget process

August 18, 2010 - With a defeat this past February of a 1.9 mill tax increase, Troy budget officials are looking for ways to cut $4 million, closing its library, community center, and museum, and laying off dozens of employees over the next three years.

That's the kind of experience sought by Independence Township Board, hiring Troy's Assistant City Manager John Lamerato as budget consultant.

"We hope to take advantage of their recent experiences and Mr. Lamerato's expertise," said Clerk Shelagh VanderVeen at the Aug. 10 budget meeting.

The board voted 6-0 to hire Lamerato at $75 per hour.

"We'd like him to take a look at our numbers and come up with ideas and put together a budget we can all live with," she said. "This will be a helpful tool to us as a board in helping us make informed decisions dealing with our budget shortfalls, now and in the near future."

VanderVeen, Treasurer Curt Carson and Supervisor Dave Wagner sat down with Lamerato two weeks ago to discuss how he could help the township. She said they "were quite impressed with him."

"If you read the papers you know Troy's been facing financial constraints that all of us are dealing with lately and their approach has been very proactive," VanderVeen said. "They've had to make some serious decisions regarding the running of their government offices."

Trustee David Lohmeier said his goal was to get analytical help and he doesn't see them "trying to duplicate Troy."

"Why would what's working in Troy work for us (and) why would we do the same things that's not really the win," Lohmeier said. "The win is you have somebody who plays with bigger budgets, bigger numbers, does this exclusively. We hire professional consultants for much smaller things than our budget process."

Lohmeier said the township is about $13,000 under in its professional services budget for this year. No one knows how many hours he will work.

"To me, it's get in, get out," he said. "Take advantage of all you can out of somebody with some good track record and then if we end up spending $3,000-$5,000 on this, we've made a pretty good investment."

Carson's concern was to "keep the scope limited," and to make sure it was the board providing the budget.

"We're the decision making board," Carson said. "So, he (Lamerato) could offer some suggestions and so on, (but) we're going to be the one's who actually make the decisions."

Trustee Neil Wallace said previously, he was "impressed that he was not the sort that would run hog wild."

With Wagner absent from the meeting, Trustee Mark Petterson asked if the supervisor "fully understood the limits of what they want him (Lamerato) to do."

"I spoke again to Mr. Wagner late this afternoon," VanderVeen said. "(I asked him) 'do I have your blessing to come out and say this?' He said 'absolutely.'"

Petterson also asked if Lamerato would be working with the Finance Director Susan Hendricks, or if the board would work with Hendricks to get the budget together and give it to Lamerato.

"I want a budget and I want a budget right now," he said. "I'm very anxious to get this taken care of. I don't want this going into Christmas."

VanderVeen suggested giving Lamerato what they have.

"Let him more or less direct what he needs and where we're going to go," she said. "He's the expert."

Wallace agreed he didn't really see any reason for Lamerato to work "in any integrated way with the finance director."

"I wouldn't want anybody making a decision about what our budget is going to be other than this board. That ultimately is our responsibility and I think he understands that," Wallace said. "He deals with the city council down there and if you watch the wrestling matches that were the Troy City Council over the last year, they make us look like pikers"

Lamerato could not be reached for comment.

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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