Salted with Sharks

Finalized Deficit Elimination Plan Submitted to State; Calls for Sale of MiniPond/Farmers Market Park and Deep Cuts to Office and DPW

In Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Village Money Situation on January 9, 2014 at 6:34 pm

By Emily Votruba

Last night in a special meeting, council approved a deficit elimination plan to submit to the Michigan Department of Treasury. The penalty for failure to meet the revised deadline of January 6 (moved again to January 8 because of the weather) was a 25% reduction in revenue sharing and a surer path downhill toward emergency managerdom.

The most contentious aspect of the plan were cuts to employee hours, specifically office hours, with Ken Holmes and Robin Rommell arguing strongly that treasurer Laura Manville should be able to eke out her elected term at her current hours and compensation. In the end a compromise was reached to reduce the treasurer’s hours to 24 instead of 16 for the remainder of her term, to commence March 1, with an end to benefits. The hourly rate would remain at $16.96.

The clerk position has already been reduced, effectively, by Sharyn Bower’s returning to the job after her brief retirement at the rate of 16 hrs per week ($16.96/hr) and no benefits. During the policies and procedures portion of this effort to appease the State, Council will need to decide whether the clerk and treasurer positions are elected or appointed, and will need to formalize the hours and compensation rate.

The plan calls for cuts to the Department of Public Works, which may result in the departure of Ken Bonney and/or newly hired DPW assistant Corey Toms. I did not have a comment on this from Mr. Bonney or Mr. Toms at post time, but past comments from Bonney suggested that he might have to take other work. Mowing may need to be subcontracted, and residents may see a reduction in the truly spectacular level of plowing service the DPW has provided during this and previous winters, to name just a couple of the many tasks the DPW has performed in the past.

The plan also calls for the sale of the MiniPond/Farmers Market Park. It’s expected that concerned citizens will mount an effort to save the park by finding a way for it to begin generating revenue. Jen Whiting, the co-owner of the Mayfair Tavern, voiced her concern for the park when several council members and members of the public arrived at the Mayfair after the meeting. Whiting and another business owner, Jim Barnes, will hold a brainstorm gathering next Wednesday at 8 pm at the Mayfair. Several commenters on Facebook have voiced support for an idea, proposed by Reggie Manville and often discussed at Parks and Rec meetings, to rent the park to food trucks.

Water and sewer rates, which were already too low (though considered too high by many) will go up, and properties with larger-diameter pipes will see their ready-to-serve rates go up by an increment deemed appropriate by the American Water Works Association.

Other services provided by the office, such as garbage bag sales and, most likely, a good deal of the work involved in renting out the Life Saving Station, will end, and the Village council will need to seek workarounds for rental administration. The LSS remains one of the Village’s largest sources of revenue. The office will likely be open to the public only two days a week, with one day spent by the clerk and treasurer together but with the office closed to the public so they may work with concentration.

The final step in righting itself in the eyes of the state will be the Village’s Corrective Action Plan regarding its internal controls and policies and procedures. Chris Olson has been contracted to help with that is well. The deadline for that Corrective Action Plan is January 22.

Elberta fiscal analysis and deficit elimination plan, Council approved, 1-14

Elberta priority session results, 12-13

Elberta Village deficit elimination plan, transmittal to State of MI Treasury, 1-14

Elberta, deficit reduction plan and prioritization, Council approved, 1-14

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