Shut down lasts two hoursPublished 9:39am Thursday, October 1, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
It was what lawmakers in Lansing were trying to avoid.
But by early Thursday morning, still unable to agree on a state budget, a brief but symbolic shutdown is exactly what state legislators got.
A government shutdown lasted approximately two hours this morning before an interim budget was passed allowing operations to continue and giving officials 30 more days to hash out a budget that will inevitably affect local governments, schools and other state aided programs.
The hold off may be a relief for lawmakers who are struggling with millions in necessary cuts – but it means an even longer wait for school districts and municipalities and local governments who have already set up their budget and will have to make significant adjustments once a state budget and possible decreases in state funding is determined.
The state isn’t the only entity struggling with budget woes.
Niles Charter Township held it’s third meeting to discuss finalizing their budget on Wednesday night. And once again it was a meeting that ended in disagreement.
The question of whether or not a final budget would be reached Wednesday was met with some speculation earlier that morning. Trustee Ron Goodwin and treasurer Jim Ringler both said they hoped that a final budget could be agreed upon but that they weren’t sure if that would be the case.
As of 11 a.m. that morning, Ringler said he hadn’t seen any revised numbers from the week prior.
“This is unusual from the way we’ve done it in the past,” he said. In previous years, Ringler explained that the board often came together with a “proposed set of numbers” and held workshops to sort through them.
“It’s been a collaborative effort by everyone,” he said.
Supervisor Jim Kidwell has taken on the role of preparing and then proposing the budget to the board.
Still, “it’s truly up to the board to vote the budget,” Ringler said.
For the third time now, Kidwell’s budget was shot down.
According to township clerk Marge Durm-Hiatt, the board worked for two hours Wednesday night through various portions of the budget, including the matter of the fire department’s portion. Fire Chief Gary Brovold was reportedly on hand to answer questions for the board.
Issues of insurance and matters regarding the Department of Public Works were also discussed.
There are still a few areas and departments within the budget that need to be “tweaked,” she said.
It was toward the end of the meeting, she said, when Kidwell proposed issuing a salary to his daughter, Tammy Youngs, who he brought in as deputy supervisor of approximately $12,000 per year.
Kidwell and Youngs have just recently reminded critics and members of the public in recent meetings that the deputy supervisor is working for no pay.
Durm-Hiatt said the compensation would be for the time Youngs is spending on ordinance enforcement.
The board was apparently not immediately welcoming of the idea and an option to pay Youngs hourly via a voucher for her time spent on the additional work was proposed.
Ringler and Durm-Hiatt both said that as tensions flared, Kidwell abruptly ended the meeting and walked out, setting a fourth budget hearing for Thursday, Oct. 8 at 6 p.m. and expressing his desire to make it the last on the subject.
When the Star called township hall to speak to Kidwell for this article, he was not yet in the office and could not be reached by press time.
Durm-Hiatt said that a precedent has been set that the township would not have a paid deputy.
Ringler was also critical of the idea. “I’m not in favor of it, no,” he said, claiming it was the process that he disagreed with. “We’re not going to create jobs for family members.”
He added that the position, if created, should also be open to applications and said that with state funding cuts still a possibility, “I’m not so sure government should be hiring anybody.”
Durm-Hiatt said no raises were factored into the budget for any of the township’s current employees.
“I think we could bring back to the table the possibility of an hourly thing,” she said, but added she wasn’t sure if even that would pass “at this point.”
As for whether or not the next hearing will be the last, said Ringler, “we should have as many budget meetings as it takes to get a budget passed.”