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Three-year township budget plan takes shape

September 01, 2010 - Brandon Twp.- After several months of workshops, a three-year budget plan was rolled out during the township board's latest strategic planning meeting Aug. 30.

Boardmembers ticked down a list of multiple changes aimed at saving close to $500,000 over the next three years, which includes alterations to nine line items in revenue, and 56 expenditure line items. Few of the items passed without some discussion or debate Monday night and Supervisor Kathy Thurman said there is still fine-tuning to be done, but conceptually, the plan is "well-established."

"We have reached a consensus in decreasing staffing, with reductions in each department," she said. "It was a very difficult decision for the board. We are talking about people's livelihoods."

The most drastic change in staffing will occur in the recreation department, where the programmer position will be eliminated in 2011, followed by the elimination of the administrative assistant position in 2012. The eliminations will save the township $34,092.65 each and will result in Director Fred Waybrant being the only employee in the recreation department paid from the general fund. Thurman said the department will be supported through recreation programming fees and a part-time contracted recreation employee will be hired and paid for through programming funds.

"We're looking for a large volunteer influence to maintain the recreation programs," said Thurman.

In the treasurer's office, the full-time deputy will be decreased to part-time (32 hours), which will result in an expected savings of $7,362.40 including a 25 cents per hour wage cut. However, Treasurer Terry Beltramo said he would need to ask for at least $1,000 in a line item for overtime because of the decrease.

Thurman noted that every office was dealing with the same issue and a decrease in hours that the township offices are open should help. Beltramo fired back that the move doesn't decrease the amount of work.

The supervisor's and clerk's offices took hits earlier this year when Deputy Supervisor Mary Kassuba and Elections Assistant/Human Resources Coordinator Karen McArthur both retired. The deputy supervisor position was reduced from full-time to part-time and McArthur's full-time position was to be replaced with a part-time election coordinator and second part-time position.

In the new budget plan, township employee wages will stay at the 5 percent reduced rate from 2009, as will trustees' wages, with the maximum amount they receive lowered by $600. Elected officials will donate 5 percent of their wages back to the township in 2011 and 2012 and following the November 2012 election, all elected officials' positions will see a 10 percent wage decrease. Officials wages cannot be legally decreased during a term.

Both Beltramo and Clerk Jeannie McCreery announced Monday night they will not seek office again when their terms end in 2012.

"Wages (for elected officials) should go to a 50 percent decrease in 2013, not 10 percent, and you should keep a good staff, because I won't be here," said McCreery. "You will have a new clerk in 2013 and should put something in for education."

"I'm not going to be here in 2013," declared Beltramo. "I'm not brain dead, so I'm not going to run again."

He explained his reasons later.

"This board has no compromise, no give and take, they have enough votes to do whatever they want," he said. "There is a group of four that are going one direction and one direction only— spend whatever they can on the park, and forget the township, except for cutting people when we should be cutting non-mandated services."

Besides the recreation department, non-mandated services include the senior center, where the board has agreed to an $8,000 decrease in wages for the senior center coordinator. They plan to subsidize the position with Community Development Block Grant funds and additionally, a part-time senior van driver will result in a decrease of $10,000 in expenditures.

Township boardmembers plan to continue to look at employee healthcare benefits for possible changes. None of the elected officials take advantage of healthcare benefits.

Sue Chesnutt, township bookkeeper, pointed out to the board at the meeting that employees' co-pays on prescriptions have increased 150 percent, they haven't seen a raise in four years, and took a 5 percent wage cut last year.

"Employees have taken hits in their pocketbooks and are saving the township money," she said.

Firefighter Erich Schudlich agreed.

"A lot of us are suffering, a lot of our spouses have lost jobs," he said. "Include us in your plans. We're an asset, not a liability."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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