In two days of marathon sessions last week, the Van Buren Township Board of Trustees met with department directors to hammer out a balanced budget for 2011.
Supervisor Paul White had pointed out the revenues for 2011 are expected to be $752,835 less than for 2010.
He asked directors to cut 10% from their spending for 2010 to meet the falling income. Some cut and some added.
The total 2011 budget is proposed at $13,077.867, down from $13,830,702 for the amended 2010 budget.
Public Safety revenue, from the 4 mills levied, brought $4,138,000 in 2010 and that is expected to drop to $3,675,554 in 2011, a difference of almost a half million dollars
Public Safety is the largest department at the township and the amended budget for 2010 is $5,614,635. The 2011 budget was presented to the trustees at $5,111,800, but then items got added during the discussions.
While the planned retirements of Officers Roy Schroeder and Jim Miller ($25,000 incentive each) reduce the budget because they will not be replaced, another $37,500 in overtime wages was proposed to cover those in training.
Also, another $5,000 was added to meet state requirements of at least $25,000 in the training budget for expenses. [Although, the 2010 amended budget was for just $20,000.] Also, another $75,000 was added pay for three new police cars.
There was talk that if the library millage passed on Nov. 2, the $420,401 set aside for the library in 2011 could be used for other things, including the five police cars for 2010 and 2011, plus buyouts for retirees.
When asked if the Honor Guard members would perform if the township paid only for uniforms and expenses, Captain Greg Laurain said they would not work without being paid.
He said they have been working as ambassadors for the township since 2005 and take comp time.
There is no line item for Honor Guard, so the cost of the ceremonial group is not easily totaled.
Supervisor White said he looked into the recent Honor Guard visits to Taylor to honor two different Taylor police officers who had been killed on duty. He said the total amounted to $11,257 and he wondered how that contributed to “protecting and serving” the citizens of Van Buren Township.
Lt. Brooks said it was illegal for them to work without being paid because of what would happen if they got hurt and Supervisor White said that the Warren Police Department has a volunteer Honor Guard.
“I understand the culture, the nature of it,” Supervisor White said. “If it was important in your culture, you would volunteer.
“Comp time is not free,” Supervisor White said. “We pay for comp time.”
Clerk Leon Wright said the Honor Guard is not free, he sees the expenses.
“We purchase uniforms and other things,” Clerk Wright said. “It should be an honor for you to serve. If the residents pay for it, it’s not an Honor Guard.” Wright noted that he coaches athletics without pay.
Captain Laurain said it boils down to do you want an honor guard or not.
“It has to do with how we manage it,” Clerk Wright said. “If we pay for your uniform and the car to get you there, your time should be volunteer. It’s great that you want to do this.”
Captain Laurain abruptly left the room and then returned a few minutes later.
McClanahan said they probably will not train the honor guard as much this year and concentrate on the core skills.
When asked, Laurain said there were eight officers in the Honor Guard.
Police Department office wages were decreased for 2011 with the elimination of one AFSCME maintenance position and cut the AFSCME records clerk to part time.
Lt. Dennis Brooks, who is in charge of police training, prepared a six-page report with a cost analysis to back up his request for more money in wages for training, which he said will reduce liability.
He said that he was told the supervisor has cut all training when not on duty, and Supervisor White said that was not true.
“I have said that as much training should be done on duty as possible. We can plan for it,” Supervisor White said.
“I apologize,” Lt. Brooks said. “My orders were very specific. I was ordered to cut all overtime for training. I assumed it was [that it had to be done] on duty. I assumed it came from the township supervisor.”
Public Safety Director Carl McClanahan said that was the direction he gave Lt. Brooks.
“Every job requires updated training,” said Clerk Leon Wright. “Do what you can.”
“I’ll manage it. That’s my job,” McClanahan said.
Captain Laurain said there is going to be some overtime, with only five cars on duty at one time.
“I sold my soul to the devil a little bit to get things for nothing,” said Lt. Brooks. He said he made some trades with the City of Wayne to use their indoor range for low-light training. He said he also called in cars on duty one at a time to go to the training in Wayne. He said citizens might have had to wait an extra 10 to 15 minutes while this training was going on.
Lt. Brooks also said the Concealed Pistol License training (commonly called CCW) was a phenomenal success, but, “It costs us to provide free programs. The tradeoff was huge for us, in public relations alone.”
Supervisor White asked if non-residents were given free training and Lt. Brooks said there were four or five non-residents who took the course for nothing. (He did not mention that he and his wife now live in South Lyon and she, a VBT dispatcher, took the free course.)
He said some people who had done things for the township had moved away and were not current residents so he called them. He said he had told them he would do something for them when the free classes were planned.
McClanahan said next time they will charge a fee to help cover the cost of the program, for wages.
“We did all that training for comp time,” Lt. Brooks said. “We can’t do that anymore.”
“In a perfect situation, we’d be throwing money at you,” said Clerk Wright to the police officers, adding, “but that was four or five years ago and unfortunately, right now things have changed.
“The public safety millage revolves around the value of homes in the township. As we know, it’s dropping. Let’s do what we can afford.
“We have a rainy day fund (landfill) and it’s going to be raining for three to four years. We need to stretch it
“We’re deciding how we’re going o use those funds … We are trying to figure out how we get through these hard times. We can’t give extra there and there,” Wright said.
Trustee Jeff Jahr said reduction of staff is an option, and there are two retirements.
“I’d rather have one less car on the road to make sure officers are adequately trained,” Trustee Jahr said. “I sure don’t want to put out an inadequately trained force and worry about getting shot on a traffic stop.”
“I can make decisions if I have the facts,” Clerk Wright said, adding that his office called the township’s workman’s comp insurance agent and found that Honor Guard members would still be covered by the insurance if they weren’t being paid.
Trustee Phil Hart said he wanted $15,000 added to the 2011 police budget for updated technology and Jahr agreed, saying they should cut $15,000 from somewhere else.
Jahr suggested McClanahan could get the information on the technology and then propose a budget amendment that would come from somewhere else than his budget. He presumably referred to the landfill fund.
Jahr said it would make the board’s job a lot easier if it had a line item for overtime. He said he requests that every year.
Supervisor White said he, too, requested a line item for overtime.
“If that’s what you want, we get it every month and throw it in your box,” said Treasurer Sharry Budd.
“We can’t put a budget out that’s not right,” Budd continued, directing her comments to the police department. “You need to share the maintenance person with another department. I think your budget is short. You have no money in your budget for this maintenance guy.”
They agreed to add $37,500 to the maintenance budget and $37,500 to police department budget for animal control.
The animal control budget is being reduced to $61,116, down from $105,482, because the plan is to shut down the animal shelter and have a contract with the Michigan Humane Society to house/adopt/euthanize the dogs.
The animal control officer would be reduced to half time on a daily basis to cover animal control and be a police department custodian half time. He would continue to have a minimum of two hours pay for being called out in the middle of the night.
A balanced budget must be approved by the township board before the end of the year. Supervisor White said he plans to present it for a vote at the first meeting in December.