Niles Charter Township board discusses upcoming changes, budget cuts

NILES — Changes due to COVID-19 are coming to Niles Township.

The Niles Charter Township Board of Trustees met on Monday evening to discuss extending the burning ordinance and addressing the revenue sharing cuts that will impact the township’s general fund.

The meeting had no public audience, while the board members discussed each item.

The township’s burning ordinance generally expires on May 15, however due to spring weather conditions, the township board voted to extend it through June 15.

“Everybody has been locked in, and the weather hasn’t been cooperating,” said Niles Charter Township Clerk Terry Eull. “It’s been so wet.”

With the threat of grass fires still relatively low with the damp conditions, the township voted to extend the ordinance through June 15. Residents should still contact the fire department for a burn permit prior to burning leaves and other yard materials.

The board members further discussed the revenue sharing cuts from the state that they expect to see. The Michigan state sales tax is collected, and then distributed to municipalities throughout the state in revenue sharing to fund department functions. With heavy COVID-19 mandates still in place in Michigan on retail establishments, the revenue collected from sales tax is projected to be substantially lower.

“On May 15, [the state] is doing the revenue conference that they do every year to estimate what the revenue for the remainder of the year is,” Eull said.

The state also predicts what its revenue will look like into the next year, as it prepares to set its budget.

“We look to have a substantial reduction between now and the end of September, which is the state’s fiscal year end,” Eull said. “The money we get from [the state] is probably at least 80 percent of our budget for general funds.”

The Niles Charter Township’s general fund has allocations for services and departments, such as the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department. Eull estimates that 40 to 45 percent of the general fund budget is used directly on  police services. The fire department would also feel an impact, as the Niles Charter Township’s general fund supplements the fire department’s funding as well.

“The fire department has its own millage, but it’s not been enough for the last couple of years,” Eull said. “We may have a vote for a millage to up the fire department operations in November.”

A millage is a tax rate tied to local property tax values, with an amount assigned to multiply with every $1,000 assigned to the property tax value.

At its last meeting, the township board cut $160,000 from road work with the Berrien County Road Commission. Now, the township board waits to find out more information from the state on May 15.

“We know it’s going to be severe, but we don’t know the exact amount yet,” Eull said of the cuts in the township’s general fund.

At the end of the meeting, members discussed what they will need to be able to re-open the building’s doors to the public. Protective screens are already on the counters. The board members are looking into obtaining more masks and hand sanitizer to keep everyone safe when COVID-19 mandates are lifted and they open doors back up for business as usual.

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan reports 119,597 cases, 6,700 deaths

Buchanan

Buchanan City Commission candidates partake in forum

Buchanan

Buchanan Planning Commission considers multi-million dollar development

Cass County

Cass County Animal Control to host Empty the Shelters event

Business

Swirlyz Frozen Yogurt closes for the season due to COVID-19 setbacks

Buchanan

Local orchard offering fresh products, cider for fall

Cass County

Committee formed to review Lewis Cass ISD name

Dowagiac

JMG Student of the Year starts second year at SMC

Dowagiac

Hale’s True Value Hardware donates paint, cleaning supplies to DUS

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Berrien County announces additional COVID-19 death

Buchanan

Buchanan welcomes new city manager

Brandywine Education

Performing arts organization creates scholarship fund

Dowagiac

Positive COVID-19 tests force cancellation of Moose Riders’ Cass County Cancer Service Ride

Berrien County

Veterinarian ticketed following discovery of dead animals on his property

Dowagiac

SMC to produce radio show featuring Dewey Lake monster

Business

Niles Apple Festival Harvest Market aims to showcase vendors, food trucks

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan sees 117,910 cases, 6,680 deaths

Berrien County

Niles man gets probation for criminal sexual conduct

Berrien County

Public Safety Warning issued following multiple vehicle break-ins in Berrien County

Dowagiac

DUS approves hire of new Sister Lakes assistant principal

News

Niles Charter Township board approves millages for ballot

Buchanan

Buchanan Art Center donates more than $1,500 to RAM

Dowagiac

DUS approves ICG site improvement plan

News

Niles pastor takes vocals to park