Township officials defend pay increase in spite of budget crunch

Published 9:53 am Wednesday, March 31, 2004

By By JAN GRIFFEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Niles Township's Board of Trustees voted itself a two percent pay increase Monday evening.
That move comes on the heels of its police chief announcing to other law enforcement agencies he will discontinue 24-hour police patrols in the township beginning Thursday because of budget cuts.
However, some Niles Township board members claim to know nothing about a decision to cut a police shift. In the least, the reduction in services -- specifically the discontinuance of the township police department's midnight shift -- has not been approved by the township board's safety council or the board as a whole, three of them said Tuesday.
Several months ago, Niles Township board members announced they had talked with City of Niles officials and with Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey about exploring on some kind of contract basis those agencies providing police protection in Niles Township.
However, neither department has submitted a proposal yet, she said.
Durm-Hiatt on Tuesday defended the township board's decision to give itself and other township employees a 2 percent pay increase.
Ringler, too, defended the pay increase.
He said the pay increase for the township board amounts to a total of less than $800.
He also pointed out the township board did not vote itself a pay increase in last year's budget.
About cuts in the township's police department, Ringler said he is unaware of any specific plans to cut services or people.
Ringler said the township firmly turned down Street's proposed budget of $759,000 for this fiscal year, providing him instead with a budget of $579,800.
He said he thinks Niles Township has an obligation to offer police protection for its residents.
Township Trustee Kevin Tonkin, who chairs the township's safety committee, voted against the pay increase for township officials.
Tonkin, too, said he doesn't know specifics of cuts in township police services.