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Township police, senior van at center of budget talks

September 08, 2010 - Brandon Twp.- Cuts to police and senior van transportation was at the heart of more budget discussions Sept. 7 as officials try to balance serving residents while not increasing taxes.

"I can't see cutting dialysis and doctor appontments for seniors," said Clerk Jeannie McCreery. "We can't save this money on the backs of the seniors. We're giving up too much for that (amount of savings)."

Treasurer Terry Beltramo agreed.

Township officials have conducted budget workshop meetings since early this year, planning a 3-year budget. On Aug. 30, at their latest strategic planning session, an extensive list of changes to save nearly $500,000 by 2013 was presented.

The special meeting Tuesday night focused on services that a recent township fiscal priorities survey clearly shows that residents want— police protection and care for seniors. What is not clear is how to continue to provide those services at their current levels, since survey respondents have also made clear they are unwilling to pay more taxes.

The budget plan calls for the part-time senior van driver's hours to be decreased, resulting in a savings of $10,000.

Trustee David King called the senior center "great," but questioned where drivers are taking seniors and how many residents actually use the senior van program.

Van driver Pat Reed said that there are about 122 regular users of the senior van, mostly senior citizens, and about 25 residents of area group homes also use the senior van. Edna Burton Senior Center Coordinator Annette Beach said 90 per-cent of senior van trips are for medical appointments. The van also takes seniors to Meijer once a month for grocery shopping and will take them to the drug store to fill their prescriptions.

Steve Robinson, a township resident and owner of Common Scents Canine Center, noted at the meeting that the senior center, recreation department and library are selective services. He urged the board to consider essential services such as roads, noting that without chloride, the roads deteriorate quicker and result in a higher cost to repair. Police and fire services are also a concern for Robinson.

The township board approved the reduction this summer of two officers— the school liaison and the deputy 1 desk officer position. Supervisor Kathy Thurman presented a summary of proposed police budgets at Tuesday night's meeting. Two scenarios have the board keeping the millage rate at the same currently levied 3.25 mills, but with one scenario cutting another 1.5 positions this year and two more in 2012 and the other cutting no more officers now, but then 4 officers total between 2012-13.

Three more scenarios raise the mills levied to 3.5286 and range from no more cuts this year to another 1.5 positions cut this year and more cuts in subsequent years.

The scenario with the least amount of officers cut would be one in which the board raised the millage to 3.5286, cut another 1.5 positions this year, then cut one more officer in 2013.

Thurman said the board is looking at cutting the K-9 unit, and sharing a midnight deputy with Independence Township to reach the 1.5 position cut, but that is dependent on board approval, as well as the approval of the Independence Township Board.

"The board does not want to increase mills this year and is in favor of cutting one-and-a-half positions over increasing mills," Thurman said. "I'm very torn. We have to come up with more money to support police staffing at some point or we won't be able to properly provide police services at a safe level."

The township board will vote on millage increases at their next meeting, 7:30 p.m., Sept. 20, at the township offices, 395 Mill St., following the truth-in-taxation public hearing.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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