Plainfield Township discussed and passed the 2013 budget during the regular meeting on Monday, November 5 with one trustee voting against. Trustee Vic Matthews read a statement regarding what he called a 566 percent increase in the clerk’s budget, despite 2013 being an off year for elections. Matthews provided the Squire with a copy of his statement which is as follows:
Issues with the proposed 2013 Township Budget
The proposed Township Budget for part-time wages in the Clerk’s Office shows an increase of 566 percent over the projected cost for the current year even though 2013 is an “off” year for elections (See Clerk’s Office on page 3). Earlier this year, the Township Board set compensation for legally required duties (also called “statutory duties”) for the upcoming term as $15,000 for the Supervisor, $20,000 for the Treasurer and $32,000 for the Clerk. That was an increase from $12,444 for the supervisor (to reflect additional time requirements with a new superintendent), a reduction of $46,200 (plus fringe benefits of $13,088) for the Treasurer and a reduction of $32,272 (plus fringe benefits of $19,512) for the Clerk. These changes were made earlier this year because Michigan law does not allow compensation to be reduced during a term even if an elected official fails to perform their duties. In the past, the Township Board erroneously set the salary for the clerk and treasurer to include both their legally required duties and other optional services that they performed such as managing the Farmers Market. A brief comparison of statutory and non-statutory duties is available and it must be remembered that the assignment of all non-statutory duties expires at the end of the term which occurs at noon on November 20.
Now, the Clerk wants to increase the “part-time” staffing in his office by $39,640.00 supposedly to pay for non-statutory duties such as issuing passports, managing the Farmers Market, responding to FOIA requests, selling cemetery lots and other unknown tasks. It is interesting to note that the increase of $32,640 for ”part-time” staffing for 2013 is almost exactly the difference between the clerk’s existing compensation ($64,272) and the new compensation ($32,000) and it is conceivable that the new board will use this budget item to re-establish the clerk’s compensation at the current level. It is also important to remember that there is a full-time deputy clerk and a Farmers Market manager.
For perspective, let us look at these tasks both in terms of time required and revenue generated.
Issuing Passports. Passport revenue has shown a steady decline over the last few years and that decline is expected to continue. The budget optimistically estimates revenue of $20,000 for passports and $6,500 for passport photo fees. That would mean servicing about 800 applicants or about 16 per week. At 15 minutes to 20 minutes per application, this involves 4 to 6 hours of staff time per week. In addition to the clerk’s office staff, there are other township staff members trained in passport processing, although their services have not been required over the last couple of years. If appointments were made for issuing passports, there would be little or no impact on the operation of the Clerk’s Office.
Managing the Farmers Market. Like passports, the Farmers Market revenue is showing a decline in revenue (Page 1) and is projected to be $12,000 for 2013. There is a part time Farmers Market manager and if the projected costs are considered (Other General Government on page 5), wages ($7,000), Social Security ($536), Materials & Supplies ($4,000) and Advertising ($2,000); it seems that there will be a loss of $153.60 for 2013. Assigning staff from the clerk’s office would only increase the deficit!!
Responding to FOIA requests. FOIA revenue for 2012 is estimated to be about $450.00 with approximately 54 FOIA requests or about 1 per week. FOIA charges are supported to be a direct reimbursement for time and resources spent to fulfill the request—not a revenue item. From the number of requests and the revenue, it is apparent that FOIA does not place a major burden on the Clerk’s Office.
Selling Cemetery Lots. The 2013 budget projects $8,000 in revenue from the sale of Cemetery lots. With lots selling for $600 each, this translates into a sale of 13.3 lots or about 1 per month.
These are hard time for our residents as well as the township. Revenue is down for almost everyone and it makes little sense to be increasing staff and expenses in the clerk’s office to perform tasks which can be performed by existing township staff and which generate less revenue than the requested staff costs.