A St. Clair County judge has ruled that the St. Clair Township Board was within its rights when it adjusted the road district’s budget.
Judge Julia Gomric threw out St. Clair Township Highway Commissioner Skip Kernan’s request for a temporary restraining order preventing the budgetary changes made by township trustees to his proposed budget.
Kernan wanted a budget with enough money allocated to pay five employees during the 2016-17 fiscal year. Trustees, wanting more money to go into road projects, decided to approve a road district budget with enough money for 3.5 employees .
Kernan asked for a judge to issue a temporary restraining order against the township trustees after attempts to amend his budget failed and after a township meeting where an overwhelming number of those in attendance said they wanted five employees.
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However, Gomric sided with the township board and said it was within its rights to modify Kernan’s budget.
Gomric said there is no language in state law for township boards preventing them from altering proposed budgets.
“In this case, the changes the township board imposed were to the ‘wages’ and ‘road construction’ line items within the highway commissioner’s proposed permanent road fund, which is not prohibited by the Illinois Municipal Budget law.”
Kernan in a statement said the attorney general’s office said the board of trustees is “not the boss of the highway commissioner” and the board cannot tell a highway commissioner how to run its office.
“It is a sad day for the hard working men and women of St. Clair Township when four board members and a judge can change the will of 27,180 people,” Kernan said. “Four years ago the voters elected me to represent them and to provide them with the services they were accustomed to for 50 years before this current board took over. The money is in the budget! ... This decision is a slap in the face to laborers and the taxpayers who will suffer and have their safety put in jeopardy.”
Kernan, who is up for re-election in April and is running as part of the Citizens for a Better Township slate, called the spring ballot “the appeals process.”
“By voting for me, I will continue to keep the township roads in their best condition while restoring the quality service the taxpayers deserve,” Kernan said. “Your vote for me is your voice as a taxpayer! I’m just getting started sticking up for the people of the township!”
St. Clair Township Supervisor Dave Barnes said he was glad the issue has been settled by a judge.
“Everybody was kind of in a uproar,” Barnes said. “Both sides felt they were right. We’ve had a ruling, and (we’ll) continue to do what’s best for the township and not waste taxpayers’ money on frivolous restraining orders. The whole thing was ridiculous.”
“If this is what Citizens for a Better Township is about, it looks like the whole township is in trouble,” Barnes said.