The St. Clair Township Board did not change the road district’s budget Tuesday to allow for more employees.
Highway Commissioner Skip Kernan wants five employees, but trustees have said his department should have four.
Last fiscal year, the township laid off all of its road district employees from mid-March until April 1 because the line item for road district employee wages had run out.
On Tuesday night, Kernan wanted the board to consider his original 2016-17 fiscal year budget proposal from February, which called for five employees. The board ultimately in the spring opted to adjust his original proposal.
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But Township Supervisor Dave Barnes said Kernan did not submit an amended budget for the township board’s meeting, which at times turned argumentative.
“Because you didn’t submit an amended budget, that’s not our problem. That’s not my problem. That’s your problem because you didn’t submit it, Skip,” Barnes said.
“So that’s your excuse,” Kernan said.
“We don’t have one to look at; that is your fault,” Barnes later added.
“No, it is your fault,” Kernan responded.
The board did not make any changes to the Kernan’s budget when none of the trustees present made a motion to do so. Trustee Greg Hipskind, who has previously supported having five employees in the road district, was absent from the meeting.
Trustees then moved on to the next item on their agenda.
“I’m still taken aback by the ignorance of this board that refuses to listen to the will of the people,” Kernan said. “I will get with legal counsel and evaluate our options.”
He said all five employees will continue to work, even without the budget adjustment.
Through two months of the fiscal year, Kernan has spent 20 percent of his budget for employee wages, according to township documents.
According to Barnes, the road district might have to lay off employees in January or February — prime snow plow season — because there is not enough money for five employees’ wages. Currently, the township has money set aside in the fiscal year 2017 budget for 3.5 employees, Kernan said.
Kernan said he expects a resolution before it reaches the point when employees would need to be laid off.
During a special meeting in May, an overwhelming majority of residents present said they wanted the road district’s budget changed to allow for five employees.
However, there was an argument between Township Clerk Brenda Reed and Kernan over how many were present at the May special meeting.
Kernan said the vote at the special meeting was 190 to 10 people in favor of having five employees. Reed said only 169 people signed in.
Trustee Mary Carroll said she had names of 228 township residents who did not want to see the road district have five employees.
She read a letter from George and Barbey Lear, of Shiloh, who said they were opposed to having the additional employees.
“We should not be expanding pension costs and overhead with more employees, (hence more government), and actually use the money for the roads,” the Lears wrote.
During the meeting, Kernan sat in the audience and not at the dais with the other elected township officials. At one point, when trustees had road district questions, Kernan said they could speak to him on Wednesday in his office.
In other items
▪ Lower sewer bills: Township trustees passed two ordinances to lower sewer bills for a year.
A transport fee will be reduced to $4 a month from $7.34 a month. The base sewer fee will be reduced to $11 a month from $12.33 a month.
The new rates will apply to about 3,000 sewer customers in the township who have their wastewater sent to Swansea.
Barnes said previously the new rates did not come from pressure of a pending lawsuit over the sewer rates.
“It’s in the contract that we review (the rates) on an annual basis. We still have to maintain those lines and take care of them,” Barnes said. “In a year, we will review them. It could go up or down, or stay the same.”