Cassopolis turns to LaGrowPublished 9:41am Wednesday, December 12, 2012
CASSOPOLIS — Cindy LaGrow has been on the job for a month as interim village manager.
LaGrow replaced Meg Cluckey, who resigned as village manager in August.
A consultant by trade, LaGrow has been given a to-do list by the village council.
She hopes to have most items addressed by the time she leaves in five months.
The village council held an informal meet-and-greet prior to Monday night’s meeting.
She was chosen out of three candidates for the position. She took over the position Nov. 13.
She has an extensive background in consulting with communities similar to Cassopolis, including Watervliet (four times) and Dowagiac. LaGrow remains Dowagiac’s economic development consultant. She is closing in on her first year as Cass County’s economic development person.
“I have done this before and I like the challenge,” LaGrow said. “I like to come into a community, do an assessment and see how they are doing and try to help them determine which way they want to go into the future.”
LaGrow said she started by looking over the budget. She works closely with department heads to see what they believe could be open issues.
“In some communities, and this one is no different than a lot of others, I do some reviewing of previous work. For the purpose of getting up to speed if you will. Trying to understand why things are the way they are or aren’t. That can take a lot of time. Not having any of that historical knowledge is something that is difficult.
“That’s why I rely so heavily on department heads. The police chief has been here for 37 years. The public works superintendent has been here for eight. The clerk has been here for a period of time as well.”
She added that she got together with the council to what challenges they were going to be facing and then kind of the direction going into 2013 and 2014.
“This community isn’t any different than any other right now. They have declining property values and the potential loss of personal property tax,” LaGrow said. “The village just like all others in the state of Michigan has to provide bench marks and dashboards of where they have been and where they are going and what kind of changes they see.
“And then that’s going to determine their state revenue sharing. That’s something we have to keep a very close eye on. That all relays back to the very first item I touched on, the budget.”
LaGrow said the village is potentially facing the loss of $156,000, which is 20 percent of the budget.
“We’re really not unique,” she said. “Everyone across the state is losing taxes. Everyone is losing property values. For us it amounts to 20 percent. We have to figure out what we are going to cut to balance that budget. It’s going to be a hard decision.”
Because of that, LaGrow and the council will begin looking at the budget in January instead of March or April.