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Twp. board considers cutting elected officials' salaries by half

October 05, 2011 - Brandon Twp.- In the current economy, job eliminations, wage freezes or cuts, and reduced hours and benefits are common.

Township employees have taken some hits, with reduced benefits and eliminated jobs. Now, candidates for public office next year may be offered half of the current compensation given and the recreation department is facing more reductions, too.

During the Oct. 3 township board meeting, Treasurer Terry Beltramo suggested the supervisor, treasurer, and clerk elected positions be changed to part-time, beginning Nov. 20, 2012, with compensation reduced to half of the current salary and no medical benefits offered.

"We have to save money and I think it's time the electeds get beat up a little, and not the employees," said Beltramo.

By law, the hours of elected officials cannot be designated.

"When you are an elected official, you are elected to the office and the position 365 days a year, 24/7, so there is no part-time or full-time," said Cindy Davis, Michigan Townships Association membership information specialist. "However, when townships have offices, one option can be, it's staffed by the officials or staffed by an employee, someone they hire. If they decide to staff with an elected official, there is nothing in the statute that says they will hold so many office hours per week."

There are a few office hours that are mandated for the clerk and treasurer, including the clerk having to be in the office the Saturday prior to every election, and the treasurer required to be available the last day taxes are due, but otherwise, it's however many hours it takes to get the mandated duties done, and even that does not require being in the office— the work could be done at home if the official chooses to do so.

Beltramo acknowledged that technically, the hours can't be changed to part-time, but said that even though he works 40 hours a week or even 50 hours a week, he is performing duties that are not mandated.

"It's extra work I do, because I think it's the way to do the job properly, but I think the mandated things could be done within 24 to 32 hours per week, thus meaning we don't have to pay (elected officials) benefits," he said. "There are lots of things I do that I don't need to, but they make my job easier. The next (treasurer) may not think of them or care."

Beltramo has said he does not plan to run for treasurer again. Clerk Jeannie McCreery, who returns from a leave of absence later this month, has also said she does not plan to run for re-election.

Supervisor Kathy Thurman said the idea of reducing compensation for elected officials was discussed at a recent budget workshop and the decision was made to reduce them by 10 percent for the next term. The annual salary for the supervisor is currently $55,518, while the clerk and treasurer each earn $48,577 per year. None of the officials is currently taking advantage of medical benefits offered.

"I am thinking this is just another devious ploy by the treasurer," said Thurman. "I don't think we're going to see a cost savings, because we would have to cover the workload in another way, probably by hiring more employees. The staff we have is already overburdened from covering positions that have been eliminated. If he thinks his position can be reduced to part-time, obviously he doesn't have enough work to do."

An MTA compensation survey shows the wages and number of office hours kept by clerks, treasurers and supervisors of various charter townships in Oakland County. Townships similar in population to Brandon (pop. 15,175) include Lyon (14,545), Milford (15,736) and Oakland (16,779). Lyon has a supervisor who keeps fewer than 20 hours per week but earns more than the Brandon supervisor— $59,303 annually. The clerk and treasurer earn that same salary, so more than the clerk and treasurer here, but also work more than 40 hours per week in the office. In Milford, all three elected officials earn $71,623 annually and all work more than 40 hours per week in office. In Oakland Township, the elected officials earn and work less— with the supervisor at $13,226 per year and 20-30 hours in office; the clerk at $8,988 and 20-30 hours per week; and the treasurer also at $8,988 but working 30-40 hours per week. Oakland Township also employs a full-time superintendent, however, who earns $104,291 annually.

Beltramo also suggested to the board that the recreation department be open only three days a week and the recreation director position be reduced to part-time to further save money.

"The opinion and suggestion of Treasurer Beltramo that the parks and recreation department become part-time, given his short duration in office, shows his ignorance of the amount of time and involvement required to successfully operate the department which creates and manages the programs, activities and parks our community has become accustomed to, expects and deserves after my thirteen years as director," said Recreation Director Fred Waybrant.

Waybrant said full-time management is necessary for proper communication with schools, the DNR, parents, service groups, churches, contractors, elected officials and approximately 1,500 to 2,000 registered recreation participants. He noted his job also entails coordination of special events including Septemberfest, the Christmas parade, Brandon Boutique and recreation's sports program banquets.

Township trustees Cheryl Gault, David King and Tom Stowell all said they believe Beltramo's proposals need to be considered. Trustee Dana DePalma said she was unsure how a job that currently requires 50 hours a week in office could be reduced by half. She would like a further study of the work done in each office.

"I think we definitely have to look at it, and I think it is very doable," said King. "I think we can get qualified candidates. Obviously, it would have to be done with a lot of thought and understanding. In my career at GM, we've always been able to find ways to be more efficient and spread the work around. It's just a matter of having the will to do it."

Thurman said a budget workshop will be held to reevaluate the proposals to reduce the salaries for elected officials, as well as reduce the recreation department hours of operation and the recreation director position. A date has not been set for the workshop.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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