A Sacred Duty
by STEVE GRIMM
Cannon Township Supervisor
When I was sworn in as Cannon Township Supervisor in 2011, I raised my right hand to God and promised to guard the fiduciary duty to Cannon’s taxpayers. That fiduciary duty required me and the board to zealously protect the fiscal stability of our township and to protect the taxpayers’ investment we receive through our millage. As our treasurer states on the township website, “Local government is a dynamic and changing environment which occasionally can provide unexpected challenges—not the least of which may be budget and revenue concerns.”
When I became supervisor last year, our board recognized that we were seriously under-funded. We asked staff to sacrifice, we implemented an aggressive approach to spending cuts, we trimmed government, and received an unexpected and relatively small increase in state revenue sharing. Over the past year-and-a-half, this has led to an increase in our general fund balance. We are well down the road to fiscal stability, but according to our assessor and auditor, we are not quite there.
On March 26, as we were about to vote on our 2012-2013 budget, our board was surprised by a motion by one board member to cut the township’s operating millage by 50%. The motion was not on the agenda, and the board was provided no supporting data analyzing the fiscal impact to the township of such a measure. While appealing politically, by a five-to-two vote, the board decided to forego the short-term political gain, and instead honor our fiduciary duty to the taxpayers. We asked the dissenters to provide a financial impact study, so we could revisit the issue, but it has not been forthcoming. So I researched it myself. Here’s what I found:
There are 35 governmental entities in Kent County. Cannon Township’s operating millage is in the lowest third of all taxing entities in the county. A 50% cut in our already low millage, which has been in place and untouched since at least 1993, would amount to an average savings of $17.35 per person per year, or $1.45 per month. Because, according to our treasurer, challenges can be unexpected, the impact to the township could be devastating. The things that separate Cannon from other townships, like the quality of our roads (thanks to Dick Davies), our dedicated police protection, watershed protection and education, and free spring/fall clean-up, would be jeopardized, just so we could get personal and political points for being “tax-cutters.” The fiduciary duty we hold sacred is more important than that.