Some Belleville Township trustees say budget is inflated

News-DemocratMarch 22, 2014 

Veteran's Memorial Fountain in Belleville.

— Some Belleville Township trustees believe the township's budget is inflated and question the cost of overhead compared to the amount of general assistance the township provides.

And, such scrutiny of the township budget underscores some elected officials' campaign to eliminate townships, especially co-terminous townships, in the metro-east.

The Township Board unanimously approved a $775,500 budget for 2014-2015 on Tuesday.

Roughly half of what is budgeted pays for the costs of three employee's salaries and benefits, and other operating expenses. The other half budgeted goes to general assistance.

The township, however, always spends under budget. Some trustees say they want to see a budget that more accurately reflects spending.

The main duty of the township, which shares the same boundaries as the city of Belleville, is to provide social services and general assistance to the poor.

Townships that do not share boundaries with a city oversee services such as fixing roads and sewers in addition to providing general assistance. The only other coterminous township in St. Clair County is the East St. Louis Township.

Before voting on the budget, Trustee Joy Schreiber said she compared what was budgeted for each expense the coming year to the actual spending the previous year.

Schreiber said she found multiple instances where the township budgeted more than necessary, even for fixed costs such as rent for the township building.

Schreiber asked to reduce the amount budgeted for rent, from $22,000 to $16,000, to match actual costs spelled out by the lease.

"It's only $15,000, so why budget more?" Schreiber asked.

Township Supervisor Dennis Korte said the township budgets more in most of the categories in case there is an emergency or unexpected increase in cost.

Schreiber asked board members to compromise with her at least on this one point.

The board voted 5-0 to approve Schreiber's amendment. It was the only change to the proposed budget.

Schreiber said she would like to see the $4,000 given to the Belleville Parks and Recreation Department be spent on something that serves the community, such as funding the Daddy Daughter Dance.

The $4,000 given to the city department last year was for office shelves, Schreiber said.

Schreiber and Trustee Joe Swierczek also asked why the township continues to increase its annual tax levy when the township's reserves grow every year.

The township levied a 1.03 percent increase each in 2012-13 and 2013-14.

The township's reserves, when the fiscal year ends March 31, is estimated to be about $474,414.

Schreiber and Swierczek also asked about the $42,500 budgeted for medical insurance for the township's three employees as part of Teamsters.

Insurance cost $31,765 this past year but the benefit is expected to increase this year, Korte said.

Though Schreiber is not critical of the general assistance budget, she said the money budgeted for social services is over-budgeted as well and the township could give out more to help those in need.

The township budgeted $285,000 this year to provide transportation, housing, medical care, medication, nursing home care and funeral expenses for the poor.

In addition, the township gives at least $60,000 to community programs.

For the past year, Township Clerk Dallas Cook has said he is working to eliminate townships, or at least Belleville Township, in St. Clair County.

The city of Belleville, where Cook is also a city clerk, could easily absorb the township's general assistance duties.

Cook pointed to the medical insurance for the township's three employees as an example of waste and said that money could be going directly to general assistance.

Cook plans on gathering signatures to place a referendum about discontinuing Belleville Township on the ballot in the future.

The measure would pass only if it has the support of at least 10 percent of registered voters of each township in the county.

In other news:

Belleville Township Board meetings are typically at 3 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of the month at the Township Hall, 111 W. A St.

However, the first meeting of the fiscal year is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. on April 8 at Belleville City Hall, 101 S. Illinois St.

The annual township meeting, mostly a formality, will follow at 6 p.m. in the same location.

Where are your Belleville Township tax dollars going?

Total 2013-14 budget: $798,000

Total 2014-15 budget: $775,500

Estimate of reserves after 2013-14: $474,414

Employee costs, including salary and benefits $263,500

Here is what the township allocated to social services this year:

* Social services for the aged and poor, including ATS transportation $37,000

* Home relief, including transitional assistance $100,000

* Medicine, doctors and hospitalization $118,000

* Nursing home care $20,000

* Burials $10,000

Here are some of the community programs that received the most money in 2013-14. These groups are expected to receive about the same this year:

* BASIC Initiative summer programs $6,000

* BASIC Initiative storytelling program $6,000

* Belleville Township High School District 201 $5,000

* Belleville East High School $4,000

*Belleville Parks and Recreation Department $4,000

*Call for Help $3,500

* Franklin Neighborhood Community Association summer camp $3,000

*Violence Prevention Center $2,500

* Union United Methodist Church sack lunch program $2,300

* Foster Grandparents $1,500

* Union United Methodist Church $1,000

* Labor and Industry Museum $1,000

* The following churches and church-related groups got $800 each, totaling $8,000:

- Christ United Church of Christ food pantry

- Community Interfaith food pantry

- St. Augustine Church

- St. Luke's Church

- St. Peters Cathedral

- Catholic Urban Programs

- St. Mark/St. George Church

- St. Paul United Methodist Church

- St. Teresa Church

- St. Henry's Catholic Church

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 618-239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDJLee.

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