On June 26, 2018, the Wesley Township Board of Trustees held a public hearing to review, discuss, and adopt the FY 2018-2019 Budget & Appropriation Ordinances.
The meeting was public – it was held at the township hall, the doors were open, and yes, the police were present.
The meeting was a hearing – although it was almost impossible to hear what was being said by any of the board members.
There was little or no discussion on the Town Budget. The entire town budget was reviewed and adopted in approximately 3 minutes.
One item mentioned with regards to the Town Budget involved the transfer of $10,000 from the Capital Outlay line item to Legal Fees (more on that later). Having obtained a copy of the budget document that was made available for public inspection, this transfer raised a question.
There was no line item for Capital Outlay in the document available for public inspection.
Why would the township board be reviewing a document different from the one available for public inspection? What is the board trying to hide? As of yet, not one FOIA request to the township for the budget documents has been answered!
Well, since the Township FOIA Officer Quigley would not provide a response, we went to the County to obtain the adopted budget ordinances.
Upon review, there are numerous discrepancies between the budget available for the public to review, and the budget the Board was apparently reviewing the night of the hearing.
The Township General Assistance Fund had no (yes, you read that correctly) expenditures forecast in the document available for public inspection. The adopted budget shows $60,000 of budgeted expenses, with $50,000 being placed in a line item called “contingency”. There was no substantive discussion in the board meeting regarding these major changes.
When compared to the document posted for public viewing, the adopted budget for the Wesley Town Fund shows an increase in revenue of almost 10%, coming from a line called “Rental Income”. This writer struggles to understand what the township may be renting.
Mind you, this $9,500 in rental income is in addition to $11,000 revenue budgeted as Park Revenue. It has been substantiated that charging for the use of a township park is illegal; this board appears to plan on continuing the practice and thumbing their noses at the law.
Interestingly, some park expenses are now detailed in the adopted ordinance: maintenance services for building and equipment, miscellaneous expenses, park sanitation (aka porta-potties), utilities and fuel.
There is a new line item for Capital Outlay in the amount of $15,000. Again, no discussion at the public hearing. It could be anything, as the line item states: Building, Equipment, Property, Park. Your guess is a good as mine.
The only line item commented on during the hearing was a transfer of $10,000 from the Capital Outlay to Legal Expenses. Tip: run this township government in an open and honest manner, and legal fees will drop, not increase. How many townships have legal fees representing 15-20% of their entire revenue stream?
So, this township board adopted the ordinance, in violation of the Open Meetings Act, as the public was not informed in sufficient detail as to what was being voted on.
Township revenues inflated by 10-20%, expenditure increases of over 30%, and wait for the next tax levy hearing. Pay attention to the increase of 4.99%; just enough to not have to hold a referendum in order to increase your taxes yet again.
The hearing included a review of the Road District Budget, which took considerably longer than the review of the Town Budget, as the Road Commissioner was thoroughly questioned about multiple line items. Interestingly, there is no trouble hearing (on the recording), any of the questions or answers directed at the Road Commissioner. The township board also adopted the Road District Budget.