2006-07-13 / News

Clark Township Sets Budget

By Amy Polk

Clark Townships new budget projects revenues of $1,684,248 and expenses of $1,665,580, leaving a surplus of $18,668 for the 2006-07 fiscal year, which began July 1. Adopted at a special meeting that followed a budget hearing Thursday, June 29, the budget reflects the township board's efforts to increase its fund balance, or "rainy day fund," to 10 or 20 percent of its annual costs. The balance will grow to $79,966 with a projected surplus of $1,455 in the general fund portion of the budget.

"We did pretty well last year, considering the past two years before that were ended in the hole," said Treasurer Katie Carpenter of the two years that the board had to dip into its fund balance to make up a deficit budget.

Following weeks of budget workshops, trustees said they are making an effort to save enough each year to build the township's fund balance while keeping up with increasing expenses and salaries.

Trustees plan to increase spending by $24,922 over last year, and projected spending has been increased in nearly every department. But they said Clark Township should be able to absorb the increased spending with increases in revenue, most noticeably from taxes and from rent and interest it collects.

The road fund, for example, is expected to see nearly $57,000 more in revenue this year from a five-year road millage approved by voters last fall.

The general fund budget, which includes township operations, maintenance, and salaries, will see $643,350 in revenues and $641,895 in expenditures.

Some funds will be impacted by heavy spending, said Supervisor Linda Hudson, such as the recreation fund, which is being used for excavation and ball diamond construction at the new recreation park near the Clark Township Hall. A Community Foundation challenge could provide close to $10,000 for that by offering $2 (up to $6,300) for every $1 the Recreation Committee raises. A fundraising campaign and raffle is in the works, Mrs. Hudson said, and the board hopes to establish a more formal recreation board to manage the recreation park's development and maintenance.

Treasurer Katie Carpenter noted that the board is now trying to budget money for maintenance and repairs at township facilities, and it is trying to build up savings to help cover major expenses in the future. She said the beach house in Hessel, for example, will soon need extensive repairs because of moisture damage and heavy summer use.

Spending will also be boosted next year by Clark Township's proposal to buy a new ambulance and pumper fire truck. For that, however, the township will ask voters in August to approve a onemill levy to raise about $167,000 for the two vehicles. The Clark Township Fire Fund includes a new $7,000 appropriation for equipment purchases, as last year, nearly $7,000 was spent on equipment when only $600 was originally budgeted for the year.

The board increased the budget $1,000 to pay Clark Township ambulance volunteers for four hours per run, rather than three hours. Volunteers are paid $8 per hour and now average about four hours on a run because they now have to enter patient information in computers at the hospitals, said Mrs. Cruickshank.

During a discussion of elected officials' salaries, trustees and residents discussed the cost of maintaining and managing township facilities, and how much it would cost to manage them if the elected officials did not. Mrs. Carpenter said the township's Compensation Committee estimated it would cost at least $10,000 to subcontract the operation of the marina, but doesn't believe anyone would take the job for that.

Defending trustees' adoption of higher fees at public facilities to help pay for maintenance, she said the township does not receive enough money to support all of its facilities.

"These facilities are bleeding this township dry," she said.

Clark Township operates the marina in Hessel, a launch ramp, public dock, and park in Cedarville, a swimming beach and restrooms in Hessel, an airport, sidewalks in Cedarville and Hessel, the township hall, three cemeteries, and the community center.

Clark Township is projecting $300,200 in property taxes and payments in lieu of taxes this year, and, in addition, anticipates another $177,900 in state shared revenue, Swamp Tax, and TwoPercent funding from the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and another $243,000 in licenses and permits, service charges, interest and rents, and other revenue sources. The township anticipates collecting $643,350 in revenue to maintain those facilities and Clark Township's fire and ambulance services.

"What does our community want?" Mrs. Carpenter asked, questioning resistance to higher taxes and fees. "We pride ourselves on beautiful facilities, but no money has been set aside to fix these facilities or to keep them maintained."

Ken Drenth, president of the Les Cheneaux Lions Club, suggested Clark Township establish a lower rental rate for the Community Center that is consistent, yet low enough for community service organizations to afford.

Trustees have adopted a new rate schedule that requires everyone to pay the rental rates for the community center, regardless of whether they are nonprofit organizations. The township didn't use to charge nonprofits and charity groups, but now contends that policy was not fair and must be consistent for everyone.

Under the new rate system, the Lions Club will have to pay the township's current rate of $375 (with kitchen use) to hold a fundraiser dinner at the community center. The Club fears having too little left over after paying the fee to distribute back to the community. He also suggested trustees call on the community to help come up with funding and maintenance solutions.

"Tell them this is a community project, and something we need to work on together," Mr. Drenth said. "It's not something you can solve."

Also at the meeting, trustees appointed Anderson-Tackman of Kinross for the annual audit, Plunkett and Cooney Law Firm as attorney, and First National Bank of St. Ignace, Central Savings Bank, and Soo Co-Op Credit Union as official depositories.

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