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With less money, township's scaling back

October 12, 2011 - Just as citizens with less money have to scale back, so does government.

Millage rates for Independence Township remained the same for the past few years, but the township's total levy is less, due to falling property values.

General Fund millage rate of 1.0193 is projected to bring in around $98,000 less revenue for 2012 than 2011.

"The budgets (for 2012) are still in a preparation stage and so we don't really know exactly what we're going to be doing," said Finance Director Susan Hendricks, who noted she hasn't been as involved in the budget process as before.

Treasurer Curt Carson said they have to "find more efficient ways to do things."

"Pretty much all of the departments have figured out some way to cut back, that's what we're doing," he said. "The last place we want to do is make a cut with personnel. We made huge (personnel) cuts a year and a half ago. We're all doing more with a lot less."

The 3.1688 fire millage is projected to bring in an estimated $332,000 less next year. According to Fire Chief Steve Ronk, the department has lost about a million dollars in the past four years and is "losing positions by attrition." including a fire inspector in 2012 and an EMS coordinator and fire marshal in 2013.

"That's been our plan for three years," Ronk said."They're coming to retirement age and we're eliminating those positions."

He also noted they are working with some part-time paramedics to increase their "run volume," so they don't lose income to private companies.

Also, the department has an "aging fleet" of fire trucks that are 12 years old, which cost more to maintain. Ronk admits it "looks odd" to be downsizing and eliminating positions, then purchasing new trucks, but he said they have saved money the past 10 years in order to replace the three engines.

"Our major goal is to keep people in the streets, so when people call 911, somebody's coming. All the rest of it will go away if it has to," he said. "Keeping the fire engines running out the front doors is our primary last ditch concern."

The library will be losing $72,000 next year on their .6910 millage rate. Library Director Julie Meredith said they are looking at up to $120,000 loss between the millage money loss, state aid, and other revenue sources.

"The problem we have in the library is there are so many fixed costs and there are only a few areas that are really fluid," she said. "No matter how much you try to save money, it's always going to cost us basically the same for the electricity and the heat. You can't just not turn on the lights."

Flexible expenses include books, CDs, movies, staffing, and other patron services. With a 30-percent cut in part-time staff last year along with 25 percent of their materials budget, Meredith said she barely has enough staff to cover things as it is.

"We are to the point where I think we're going to have to start talking about potentially shortening the library hours," she said. "A lot of libraries are doing that."

Independence Township sheriff's substation could be facing around a $309,000 loss to their revenues on their 2.0547 and .8953 millage rates. However, Substation Commander Lt. Dale LaBair said despite the loss in revenue, they are "right where they belong."

"The plan was when we got our millage, we knew this year (2011) was going to be very weak. When we planned the millage, the thinking was last year we would have a slight surplus, we had slight fund balance, so this year we should be OK," LaBair said. "The anticipation is next year ought to just be a wash, but after that is just anybody's guess."

The fire millage, which was last renewed in August of 2008, will be up for renewal in 2012. The library and police, which were renewed in 2010 will be up for renewal in 2014.

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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