Twp. budget includes steep pay hikes

ALPENA TOWNSHIP — The proposed 2019-20 Charter Township of Alpena budget includes steep raises for many of its employees, more than doubling the pay for at least one employee.

The township board will hold a public hearing for the budget at 5 p.m. Monday at the township office, 4385 U.S.-23 N.

Some of the raises proposed in the budget that begins April 1 are quite hefty, but township Supervisor Nathan Skibbe — an elected official who would receive a bump in annual pay from $42,157 to $45,108 — said the raises are long overdue.

Skibbe said administrative staff hasn’t had wage increases since 2007, and significant hikes were needed to make the township’s pay comparable to similar municipalities. Raises are possible now because of the solid financial ground on which the township stands, he said.

If competitive wages aren’t offered, Skibbe said, finding qualified employees could be more difficult.

“We need to surround the township with the best and most qualified people,” Skibbe said. “If we don’t, we will continue to have a high rollover rate and maybe miss out on the professionals we desire when we have to replace positions.”

A copy of the proposed budget shows the township assessor’s wage would climb from $36,280 to $43,260, while the assistant assessor’s wage would more than double from $15,402 to $32,000.

Skibbe said the large increase for that position is because the employee is being groomed to be a department head as retirements near. He said salaries for a comparable assessor in other municipalities are significantly more.

“In many communities, this job pays close to six figures,” he said. “That, and there is a serious shortage of assessors and, if we were to have to find another one, it would be very difficult.”

Other municipalities, such as the City of Alpena, Alpena County, and Montorency County have all faced challenges when trying to hire new assessors.

The township clerk, an elected position, would see a pay increase of just under $4,000 to $44,000. Skibbe attributed that to the degree of knowledge and education she has. He also said Clerk Michelle Palevich, who was appointed in September, took a chance accepting the appointment because she will need to be elected in 2020 to keep the job.

“She showed a lot of faith in us and, not too far in the future, she will be forced to go knock on doors,” he said. “Plus, remember, there hasn’t been a wage increase for our clerks since 2007.”

The building inspector also would see a raise in the proposed budget, his salary climbing from $32,500 to $43,260. The treasurer, another elected position, would see a slight increase, going from $40,000 to $41,500.

Also proposed is an increase in the budget for paying the township’s Department of Public Works employees. Last year, the township budgeted $93,000. That would climb to $130,000 in the 2019-20 budget, which Skibbe attributed to a new partnership with the North Eastern Michigan Rehabilitation and Opportunity Center Inc.

“We have been working with NEMROC and we have decided to hire three part-time employees through it,” Skibbe said. “We will have them doing things like cleaning the bi-path and other jobs, and we’re just super excited to be able to do this.”

The pay hikes and other expenses would increase the township’s annual general fund spending by about $85,000, to about $1.5 million. Still, the township expects to grow its general fund cash reserves to more than $1 million — equal to nearly 66 percent of general fund expenses — by the end of the 2020 fiscal year.

Those cash reserves, also called a fund balance, are a savings account containing both earmarked and unrestricted funds used to pay bills before revenue comes in and to cover any annual budget shortfalls.

Outside of the general fund, the township has steadily increased the cash reserves for its water-sewer fund to about $10.7 million. The annual expenses of the water-sewer fund are about $3.3 million, meaning the township has enough money in the bank to run its water-sewer operations for more than three years.

For the last several years, the township has been in a legal battle with the City of Alpena over the rates the township pays the city for water and sewer services.

What that $10.7 million would be used for has yet to be determined.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.com.

Proposed pay hikes

The Charter Township of Alpena will hold a public hearing Monday on the township’s proposed 2019-20 budget, which includes steep pay hikes for some employees, including:

Assistant assessor: 108% pay increase

Building inspector: 33%

Assessor: 19%

Clerk: 10%

Supervisor: 7%

Treasurer: 4%

Source: Alpena Township