Time to scrap township, not give raises

Belleville Township office
Belleville Township office

Imagine you had a rusted-out, ’83 pickup with a locked-up motor and broken transmission. Would your top priority be giving it a fresh coat of paint and topping off the gas tank? Or would you be trying to figure out how to get it towed to the junkyard?

The former is essentially the approach at Belleville Township, where even though the township will be dissolved in May, Supervisor Dennis Korte’s most pressing concern is giving raises to the employees.

Keep in mind, these 3 percent raises for the two employees require more than simply signing a piece of paper. Korte had to get all creative to pull these off. They required some fuzzy logic and a lawyer. He might also need a magic checkbook, or maybe he’ll need to pass the hat.

The township board voted 3-2 in May against a budget amendment that would have allowed Korte to give the raises. That should have been the end of it.

But no. Korte arrives at a township meeting last week with the township’s lawyer. The attorney announces that Korte would be giving the employees the raises, retroactive to April 1. The lawyer adds that “maybe in the future instead of having them work full workweeks, he will give them comp time in the future.”

Wait, what?

Korte, in response to a question from the lawyer, said he won’t go over budget.

“They’ll be here but they won’t be paid,” Korte said. He declined to elaborate after the meeting.

So these employees at some point are going to show up and work for free? Then why the raises?

The two employees are caseworkers who help needy people who apply for assistance — up to $245 a month in assistance for rent, utilities and gift cards for food. The annual salaries for the two workers are $55,000 and $51,000, plus they pay no premiums for their health insurance and get township-supported retirement benefits.

And how many clients do those caseworkers serve? About 50 per month — or roughly one client per worker, per day. Makes you wonder what those “full workweeks” entail.

The township board and the Belleville City Council have both passed ordinances calling for the township to be dissolved and for the city to take over the township’s duties.

It’s time to work on winding down this unnecessary layer of township government, not figure out ways to keep it limping along.