Baldwin residents cut budget

By Jeffrey Hage

Baldwin residents weren’t as generous with their tax dollars as they were in 2011.

At the 2011 annual meeting, residents voted to increase the bridge and road fund by $200,000.

In 2012, there was no opening of the wallets. In fact, about 100 township residents voted to cut the Baldwin Township Board’s proposed 2013 budget by $90,000, to $894,000.

But that’s not as bad as it could have been. A proposal to cut  about $180,000 from the general fund was on the table but failed by a 49-47 vote. Just three township residents opposed the $90,000 budget reduction.

While the public approved the budget and their annual tax levy, the board retains the discretion to spend the funds as it deems appropriate. The public did make it clear, however, that it would like to see $10,000 allocated to reinstating fire department training fees. They also supported spending on the continued development of Young Park and the township’s parks system as a whole.

A fair amount of discussion went into the fire department training issue. The Baldwin Fire Department is a volunteer department and its members are not on the township payroll. Firefighters do, however, get paid for training.

Firefighters used to get paid $15 per three-hour training session two times each month. Budget cuts in previous years had reduced that stipend to $1 per training session, or $24 per year, said Fire Chief Mike Rademacher. Firefighters give up a lot of family time to serve the township, Rademacher said. Allocating $10,000 for their annual training would be an act of good faith and a sign that members’ commitment to township residents as firefighters is appreciated, Rademacher said. The public seemed to agree.

Supervisor Tom Rush asked for a $25,000 commitment to the parks department, up from $2,000 last year.

Some of that money would go towards seeking grants. For example, the township is seeking a $91,000 grant from the state’s Legacy fund. The grant requires a $5,000 match, Rush said. Other funds would be allocated to completing a boardwalk system in Young Park and other improvements that have yet to be completed. Town residents also appeared supportive of the parks.

Resident Troy Scheffel made a motion to earmark $30,000 for youth baseball and softball fields but the motion failed. But fields will be added to Young Park in the near future. Just not the fully-established fields Scheffel might have imaged. Kermit Young, who donated his land to establish the park in 2005 before passing away in 2009, specifically noted at the time of his land donation that if a ball field were to ever be added to the park it be a sandlot-type field like those he played on as a child.

One thing the public didn’t appear to support was a $1.5 million reconstruction of 136th Street.

A number of residents who either live on 136th Street or travel it daily feared what might happen to the already-busy road if it were reconstructed.

Many said it would become an “autobahn,” referring to the German expressways that generally have no speed limits.

The public appeared supportive of a plan to maintain 136th Street, fill in low spots and make repairs as they are deemed necessary. Bonding for a $1.5 million project, which could result in interest fees as high as $160,000 for 10 years did not appear palatable to the residents.

The township residents also expressed their desire to have more information regarding the township finances at its annual meeting so the public could make well-informed decisions regarding the proposed budget.

A motion was made, and approved, asking the Board to provided audited financial reports one week prior to the annual township election and annual meeting, which are generally held on the same night. The measure was passed with the caveat that an outside accounting firm prepares the township audits following the close of the fiscal year and while having audits returned to the town by early March might be desired, it might not always be feasible.