Niles Charter Township meets, discusses future budget cuts

NILES—The Niles Charter Township Board of Trustees met Monday evening to discuss bills paid, two orders of new business and the financial hardships the members see ahead.

Discussion of budget cuts took to the center of the meeting, as changes in the economic landscape of Michigan may begin to affect townships and municipalities with dips in tax revenue.

“We’re going to see extreme cuts in our revenue in the near future,” said Niles Chart Township clerk Terry Eull.

The trustees have not approved any road repair for this year, which they hope will save the township $160,000. The fiscal year will end Sept. 30, and Eull expects to see the most extreme cuts between now and then.

“We’re looking at some serious issues coming up in the near future. This is going to be faced by all municipalities in the state of Michigan,” Eull said.

The serious issues Eull referenced come from the shared revenues from the state of Michigan. These tax revenues come from state sales tax, and can account for 80 percent of the township’s general budget.

With spending and sales overall down across the state due to mandates and shutdowns due to the COVID-19 precautions, the funding will become smaller.

The sewer and water department, and fire department have their own separate funds, but the general fund contributes to departments like police, parks and building, he added.

The Niles Charter Township Board of Trustees will wait to hear what the revenue council releases after it meets next week and learns more about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s new announcements as they come.

The meeting progressed quickly through accepting the February 2020 police report and paying bills including the April 20 expenditures and transfers of $481,954.30.

Two orders of new business were approved, including a tentative proposal to pave Evergreen Road. The approval is the first step in the discussion of getting the work done, according to Eull.

Another order of new business was a next step in sewer work.

“That’s still part of what’s called the SAW grant,” Eull said.

The SAW (stormwater, asset management and wastewater) grant comes from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The grant has been used to improve the township’s sewer system. A camera system was put through the sewer line to find cracks and leaks. After the system has been cleaned out, the camera system is used to find areas of issue, where another line may cross through the sewer or where ground water is leaking in.

“If we have water leaking in, we’re sending that to the treatment plant and paying to treat it,” Eull said. “We’re paying to treat clean water. We’re trying to find weaknesses in our system. The goal is to cut infiltration so you’re not treating ground water, versus sewer water.”

Niles Charter Township’s next board meeting is scheduled for May 4. Offices remain closed to the public, but operational with a rotating staff in the office to take phone calls and continue business. The township’s current plan is to remain in a limited capacity until May 1, or until otherwise advised by the governor.

No residents were in the attendance Monday evening, but the township has an area set aside for those with concerns to come and speak with the board.