Niles Township mulls over 2021 budget, yet to be finalized

NILES TOWNSHIP — At 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, the Niles Charter Township board hosted a special meeting to discuss the township’s 2021 budget.

The budget is in its final planning stages, but still has lines being discussed by the township board.

According to Niles Charter Township Treasurer Jim Ringler, the final budget will be approved either in a regular board meeting, or another special meeting if needed. The next regular board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 21, via Zoom. The budget is due by Dec. 31.

Many lines in the township’s budget looked to be projecting for smaller allocations.
“Several of the fund expenditures are much less than last year,” Ringler said. “Some are the same, and a few are a little more than last year due to equipment purchases and other miscellaneous items.”

In the summary of the prospective 2021 Fund for the township’s budget, there are estimated expenditures for 2021, projected at nearly $1,574,880 — as of Wednesday — for the township’s budget. This was a decrease in the 2020 estimate, down $297,991.

Areas that see an increase in projected budgeting are Planning and Zoning, with a $24,914 budget increase noted, taking it from $68,089 used as of Nov. 30 to a projected $109,057.

Areas of the largest decrease in expenditure were the Highway Repair and Maintenance line, where in 2020 the township had budgeted $225,860, and used just $29,802 as of Nov. 30. In 2019, the township budgeted $244,163, and used $236,036. For 2021, the township has budgeted zero as of Wednesday.

“Last year we decided after funding it, we would not participate in the matching from the county, $162,000,” Ringler said.

The timing for the decision coincided with the arrival of COVID-19 in Michigan. As the pandemic arrived, the township decided to table contributions to the county for road work in the case funding became further restricted by economic impacts from the virus’ fallout.

“We just didn’t know where anything was going to go at the time. The $162,000 comes right out of the general fund balance, as we have no road millage for Niles Charter Township,” he said.

For Niles Township, the final number budgeted for Highway Repair and Maintenance is not final.

“I’m in favor of putting money back in [to the budget for roads],” Ringler said.

The challenge for the township, Ringler said, is that they cannot do maintenance to the majority of the roads within the township. The roads belong to Berrien County. In order to have maintenance performed, the township has to contribute at least around $160,000 to have the Berrien County Road Department then match it, and create a budget to move forward with plans, engineering and work.

“We don’t get any money to fix the roads. The money would normally go to support the police department and fire departments,” Ringler said. “I know the roads are in Niles Township, but we don’t have the funding to do that.”

With the new fire department millage passed in the Niles Charter Township, discussion between the township board members drifted to breaking down a budget specific to the fire department, including the pay for a new fire chief. The millage will bring in about $1.2 million to the township for the fire department’s needs.

“We have to address the north fire station,” Ringler said, referring to improvements needed at the Niles Charter Township north fire station on North Fifth Street.

After nearly an hour of discussion, the board members noted revisions needing to be made. The budget is due to be passed by the township board by the end of 2020.

This story has been updated from its original publication to include additional context.

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