During a lengthy report June 21 on the 2015 audit of financial funds in Van Buren Township, Plante Moran auditor Dave Helisek urged the VBT board to continue to plan on how it’s going to address the Visteon bond and the public safety millage that is expiring.
“The public safety millage is significant,” Helisek said of the expiring four mills. “If it doesn’t get renewed, you’ll have to look at a way to get substantial revenue to continue services.”
He said the public safety millage brings in $3.5 million, about half the public safety expenses.
“You’re our auditor,” said Trustee Phil Hart. “You’re sending a signal to us that we have two things to worry about.”
Trustee Hart said several board members had wanted to put money away for the last couple of years for the bond and the board didn’t do that.
“We have to start planning now,” Hart said. “Can we have a reserve fund?”
Helisek said he is an auditor and he does not tell you how to spend your money, but he points out concerns. He deferred questions on funds to the township attorney.
He said the board is allowed to flag money in the fund balance.
Treasurer Sharry Budd asked the board to look at page 59 in the financial report where $4 million has been set aside in the fund balance for “future obligations.”
Helisek the “assigned” status is no more than flagging of money and that can be undone quickly. “Restricted” funds are different and must be spent for a specific purpose.
Hart said if they take the Visteon bonds out of the picture completely, the board still needs to do more on retirement and health care.
Clerk Leon Wright said, “We assigned $4 million and hope Visteon will come to the table.”
“It’s not right to use the landfill money for general operation,” Hart said and Helisek said, “That’s a policy decision.”
“That’s the way I feel,” Hart said.
Helisek said the township will more likely than not be required to pay a portion of the Local Development Finance Authority debt service payments on the Visteon bonds beginning in 2018. The amount had been estimated at $20 million, but the LDFA refinanced the bond and lowered it to $16.7 million. He anticipates it to go up.
The audit showed $14,832,343 in general fund revenues in 2015 and $13,343,401 in expenditures, adding $1,488,942 to the fund balance for a total of $10,826,817 on Dec. 31, 2015.
Helisek spoke about the pension and health care liabilities. He said in a couple of years that will go up to $22 million.
He said the township is paying these liabilities each year and actual cash payment creep up each year.
“You’re a one-mill township fortunate to have a landfill,” he said. “It helps.”
Hart said the landfill contract expires in 2026.
Helisek said the township used $3,958,084 out of the landfill fund in 2015.
“For the last two years it’s gone up $2 million,” said Clerk Leon Wright.
The board voted unanimously to accept the audit report.
In other business at the June 21 meeting, the board:
• Held a moment of silence for the late Pete Foster, the husband of former Supervisor Helen Foster, and included the tragedy in Orlando, as well;
• Approved the first reading of the rezoning of 1.54 acres of landlocked property at 841 Savage Road from M-1 (Light Industrial) to R-1B (Single Family Residential) so the owners of the two R-1B attached parcels on Savage can have the property they own behind them also R-1B so they can sell it all and move to Florida;
• Heard a presentation by Dr. John MacDermid on the “Little Free Libraries” Rotary Club project. He said the Rotary put up a Little Free Library at the gazebo at Victory Park at Five Points in Belleville and he has a second version that he designed and made. He would like to find a place in Van Buren Township to place it, where people travel, while they’re on the way to do something else. He said somebody stocks it with books and people can come and take a book or bring a book. He showed board members pictures of the new free library on his iPad. It is made out of solid oak with the roof of plywood and measures 2’x18”x36” with a peaked roof on a 4×6 post. “We’ll get with our DPW and find the best place,” said Clerk Wright who was chairing the meeting in the absence of Supervisor Combs;
• Heard Sherry Frazier comment on the audit cautioning the board everyone has to get a big picture of the township. She said she is a licensed Realtor and she got a call from a person in a nearby community that said she can’t believe her taxes are going up 14 mills. The increase is on the August ballot and if it doesn’t pass, the city will be taken over by an emergency manager. “We have to be aware,” Frazier said, adding that the feds are talking about raising interest rates on home mortgages. “We have to be aware of what is going on in neighboring communities,” she said. When board members asked what community that was, CeJay Marshall identified it as the City of Wayne, where he is trying to sell a house;
• Heard Clerk Wright announce that his new ADA elections counter is now open. The cost was covered half by the Van Buren Civic Fund and half by the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority refund. He said the counter was the idea of Deputy Clerk Joanne Montgomery;
• Heard Clerk Wright announce his office registered 40 voters from all over the state at the Strawberry Festival booth they manned. He thanked Barbara Rogalle Miller for providing her office space for refreshments;
• Heard CeJay Marshall note that it’s hard to hear the board speaking when the compressor kicks on, and he sits in the second row of the audience. He spoke of Plymouth Township floating 16 mills for public safety, his disagreement with a statement Brenda McClanahan made at the candidates’ forum, how six members of the school board can ruin the reputation of the community, and the need to address blight and high grass with a serious ordinance officer; and
• Was shown an elections’ promotion that is being shown on the township’s cable channel.