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Village coffers swell to 136 percent:'We have to be frugal...'



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June 29, 2011 - Ortonville- In the current economy, budget cuts have become the norm. Not in the village.

In a time when many municipalities struggle to meet a recommended fund balance of at least 10 percent, the village has exceeded that amount. Exceeded it by far, in fact.

The village council approved a 2011-2012 budget of $438,000 at their June 27 meeting. Their fund balance stands at roughly $596,000, or 136 percent of their total budget.

"We haven't had to cut, because we already cut our employee benefits," said Village Council President Wayne Wills, referring to action under the previous council to change village employee positions to part-time and not offer healthcare or retirement benefits to any employees, including the DPW supervisor, the sole full-time employee. "We have to be frugal and keep things under control."

Besides the DPW supervisor, the village has five part-time employees— a DPW laborer, clerk, treasurer, seasonal Skate Park monitor, and Village Manager Larry Brown.

Brown said overall, the village has $14,000 less in revenue compared to last year's budget due to lower property values. Because the village has saved money by not offering benefits, Wills said, the newly approved budget includes a "small increase in wages" for employees. Wills added that benefits will not be brought back in the foreseeable future.

"One of the things all employees have been really good at is keeping overtime to an absolute minimum, snowstorms not withstanding," he said. "They are doing an excellent job and we've included performance goals in their packet. When they meet those, they are rewarded. This helps us move forward and build fund equity and use for projects like the roads."

The village council plans to repave Pond Street this year, and may also do work on James Street and Varsity Drive. Bids have been sought for the work on these roads.

"We could spend more than the fund balance and still have roads that need to be fixed," said Brown. "We have to keep in mind that we have to replace the bridge on Ball Street in 2012."

The village will receive a grant that pays for 95 percent of the replacement of the bridge, but is expected to have to pay about $100,000 for the remaining 5 percent, as well as for all engineering costs.

Brown said the bulk of the village budget is spent on costs for the Department of Public Works, including road repairs, labor, salt, truck maintenance, street lights and buildings the village maintains.

"Our fund balance will go down," Brown said. "It will go down in a hurry because of the roads."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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