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Posted: 04/09/14

Bruce Twp approves $1M budget for 2014-15 year

Observer Staff Writer
      Bruce Township has approved of a $1 million budget that will bring in legal counsel to more board meetings.
       The Board of Trustees voted 5-0 on March 19 in favor of a 2014-15 budget that includes an extra $2,000 in funding for attorney expenses.
       The budget also includes a $9,000 increase to building maintenance to patch up the Township Hall's aging roof.
       During the public hearing on the budget held March 19, a resident asked whether the figures included the cost of having the township attorney attend board meetings.
       Supervisor Richard Cory said it did not, and that the board tries to be conservative in using its legal counsel, which charges $80 an hour.
       Treasurer Deborah Obrecht said it wouldn't be a bad idea to add about $3,000 more into the budget to have the attorney at meetings.
       "I think it would resolve some of the questions right then and there," she said.
       Obrecht said the township was over budget by $2,090 for its attorney fees in 2013-14 when looking at the budgeted amount of $10,000.
       "There is enough things going on that, I believe, it could be an asset to our residents," she said.
       Trustee Paul Okoniewski said the board approved a 1 percent tax increase in 2013, so he didn't believe adding more expenses was the right decision.
       "I think we should be looking at ways how to get rid of that 1 percent we added last year," he said.
       Clerk Susan Brockmann said some meetings are too short or simple to justify the expense, adding that the township won't eliminate the 1 percent fee by adding "frivolous things" to the budget.
       "We really tried over the past three, four years to kind of rein in these attorney costs," she said.
       She instead suggested putting a policy in place on how the township utilizes the attorney. Cory said he would be in favor of adding $2,000 to the attorney budget, which would come from the improvement revolving fund.
       "We do have a lot of projects coming up," he said.
       The board agreed the attorney would attend meetings at Cory's discretion.
       Brockmann said the attorney budget increase will combine with adjustments to revenue caused by receiving just under $2,000 in revenue from a special assessment district and placing $3,200 from Enbridge Energy in the 2013-14 year. These adjustments decreased the improvement revolving fund to $38,915.
       The fund was tapped earlier this year to set aside funds for roof repairs to the Township Hall, increasing building maintenance from $6,000 to $15,000.
       Health care costs are decreasing from $108,500 to $106,800. Brockmann said several township employees don't use the health care option, and a decrease to the township's rate is projected.
       Resident Trese Servitto-Smith said she would like to see township employees pay into their premiums as opposed to being covered by taxpayers.
       "I have to pay mine, I don't get a freebie, and yet my tax money has to pay for the people in the township to get a freebie," she said.
       Other expenses in 2014-15 include retiree health care increasing to $37,700, pensions up to $58,200 and payments for a $569,620 loan to pave 34 Mile Road.
       Revenue will see increases in the 2014-15 year in personal property tax collection at $338,821, state revenue sharing at $520,000 and building permits to $60,000.
       The budget had to be approved by March 31.

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