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Budget info irks resident

November 24, 2010 - When Rick Gutowski of Independence Township asked for a copy of the proposed 2011 budget at township hall, he was handed a 48-page document without public works or police budgets.

"In my opinion, expecting citizens to analyze this data is asking a lot," he said to the township board at the Nov. 16 meeting. "If I had given my boss the raw data from testing and told her to analyze it, I would have been fired."

All Parks and Recreations special events remain on the chopping block in the proposed $23.6 million expected revenue budget.

Proposed cuts also include lifeguards for Deer Lake Beach and swim lessons. All special events plus swim lessons and manning Deer Lake Beach costs the township around $47,000.

Trustee David Lohmeier said the board didn't get anything better than what the public got, as far as he knows, and he believes Gutowski's comments were right on.

"His biggest complaint was lack of a simple narrative that goes item by item and says what the budget doesn't fund and he was 100 percent right," Lohmeier said. "There is no reason we shouldn't have that."

Supervisor David Wagner said they try to give as much information to the public as they can.

"Basically the information that was given is what's been given out for years, it's no more, no less," Wagner said. "That's why we put it out there for a week in advance, so people are allowed to look at it, so if they have questions they can call the clerks office and get answers to their questions."

Gutowski called it a "crying shame" that Wagner doesn't "know the details of what the hek is going on in his excutive function."

"I don't know what experience Dave has with doing multi-million dollar budget, but I think his experience is only the things he's gained the last six years in office," Gutowski said. "He doesn't direct anything. He takes the result and then tweaks it."

With all special events and Deer Lake swim lessons cancelled, Wagner recommended laying off a full-time programmer as well, which would save another $75,000.

"When there aren't any programs anymore I don't really see a reason to have as many programmers when you don't have as many programs," Wagner said.

However Jeff Morris of Parks and Rec. said the special events are only about 30 percent of a programmer's job. If a full-time programmer was cut, they would probably recommend cutting all day camps, preschool camps, basketball camps, and therapeutic recreation programs as well.

"The other issue with cutting full-time programmer, there could be implications to losing the part-time programmer we have the senior center and that person does a lot of senior programs too," Morris said. "The AFSCME Union contract says we can not carry part-time employees if a full-time employee was cut."

Wagner said Tuesday morning, he decided against cutting a programmer.

"After the last meeting (and) listening to Parks representative Jeff, he presented a pretty good case on it," Wagner said. "With further discussion with him I thought maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to just leave it in place."

Instead Wagner said he will leave the decision with the next Parks and Rec. director, who they hope to have the final three or four narrowed down in the next couple of weeks and hopefully have someone in place before the first of the year.

"I rather not jump the gun on the issue and allow the new individual to make that determination," Wagner said. "That person we're hiring is the expert in the field, maybe there is some new ideas they bring in that will allow us to not make any further cuts and reestablish some of the programs the Parks department has cut."

Gutowski said the budget also did not give any detail summary of the changes from prior years, which is required by state law.

"The reasons for the changes and a description of how the changes will impact township services would give a person the information necessary to make an informed comment at a public hearing," he said. "I think before you call the next public hearing, someone needs to look at this public act and take it to heart, that this isn't just putting a bunch of numbers together."

Gutowski holds both Supervisor Dave Wagner and Finance Director Susan Hendricks responsible for any budget information that doesn't get communicated.

"It's obvious to me the communication is to the board is just a tad better than what we're getting," he said.

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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