Fiscal officer Jane Gildenmeister and trustee Jeff Ferrell clashed for almost 30 minutes at a public meeting, after Gildenmeister asked for $15,000 to hire a part-time worker for her office.
“I’m getting behind in my work,” Gildenmeister said. “I don’t feel I’m doing the best job I can do for our staff, our residents or for our board.”
Ferrell refused to provide her a single penny — he said the township shouldn’t hire anyone, given that less than one month ago trustees axed seven positions in the police and highway departments. Six people were laid off as a result. One of the eliminated position was already vacated.
All this came after trustees saw a $1 million cut to their $9.5 million budget, largely resulting from decreasing property values and shrinking state revenue.
“I feel at this point in time — with the cuts we have made, and I foresee future cuts we must make — I don’t think it’s a good move for the township,” Ferrell said at Tuesday’s meeting.
In the end, however, the other two trustees trumped him. Mike Printy and Tim Coleman reluctantly supported Gildenmeister’s plea for help, delivering a 2-1 vote in favor of hiring an assistant fiscal officer to help file paperwork, complete grant work and update meeting notes for public viewing.
“Something is going to fall through the cracks,” Gildenmeister said. “I wouldn’t ask for it if I didn’t think it was in the best interest of the township.”
After trustees reached their decision, one township employee scolded them for what he called a careless move.
“It was irresponsible for you guys to hire in front of me,” Perkins Township highway employee Brian Kuns said.
Trustees have laid off three of Kuns’ colleagues, slashing the highway department’s full-time staffing in half.
“It was a slap in the face,” said Kuns, also the department’s union representative. “That was totally irresponsible considering the devastation to our department.”
Trustees, meanwhile, still need residents to approve a May levy for new money to fund police operations. If the police department can secure funding through its own levy, it would free up more dollars in the general fund to pay for road projects, snow plow patrols and other services.
Perkins officials estimate the levy’s failure would translate into another $1 million loss, putting the grand total at $2 million. This would mean further reductions to the township’s administration, building, highway, police and zoning departments.
“With the loss of $1 million this year and the potential loss of another $1 million next year, this levy will fill the gap and fill the service needs for this community,” Coleman said.
By the numbers: Perkins Township’s financial woes
- $1 million: Deficit Perkins faces in 2013.
- $9.5 million: Township budget this year.
- 7: Positions cut in police and highway departments in January.
- 50: Percent decrease to highway department’s full-time workforce, dropping from six workers to three.
- 20: Percent decrease to police department’s full-time workforce, dropping from 20 officers to 16.