THREE OAKS — Determining some strategies to come up with solutions to declining revenue streams was one of the main topics of conversation during the monthly meeting of the Three Oaks Township Board on Sept. 9.
Triggering the discussion was a letter sent via email from the Michigan Department of Treasury dated Sept. 3 to clerk Liz Zabel noting that during the last three fiscal years the township’s expenditures had exceeded revenues, and they were requesting an explanation for that trend that had been noted in recent annual audit reports.
The letter went on to state that within 30 days from the date of the letter the township was required to submit a Corrective Action Plan to resolve the matter.
Supervisor George Mangold and Zabel commented that the township had been well aware of the situation of diminishing revenue streams specifically caused by the loss of tipping fees due to the closure of the Forest Lawn Landfill, along with smaller amounts of funds received from local revenue sharing from the Four Winds Casino that is distributed through The Pokagon Fund.
Mangold produced data showing that revenue received from activities at the Forest Lawn Landfill went from a high of $643,197 in 2005 to zero in 2019, with an annual average over the 18 years of receiving Tipping Fees of $333,814.
Revenues generated by the operation of the casino and distributed to the township peaked in 2010 with $295,251 received, and diminished to a low of $151,362 in 2018. The annual income received from that source between 2010 and 2018 was $224,705.
Zabel noted that it was during the past few fiscal years mentioned in the letter a major expenditure was the purchase of the new Township Hall building and the necessary renovation work done to that structure to convert spaces to offices for township officials.
Mangold said the township would comply with any actions requested by the state, and that he and Zabel would get in touch with the author of the letter, The Department of Treasury’s Cary Jay Vaughn, the Audit Manager in the Community Engagement and Finance Division.
Mangold also expressed his frustration with what said were less than adequate communication skills from the township’s current auditing firm of Campbell Auditing.
“They’re on the final year of a five-year contract with us, so I’ll be contacting other municipalities in the area to find out who they use and what their levels of satisfaction are,” Mangold said.
He also said that the township would have to look at putting issues on the ballot in the near future that would grant the township a course of action to increase millage rates to counteract the effects of diminishing revenues being garnered from other sources.
In other business, two ordinances were adopted by resolutions that received unanimous consent.
A Civil Infractions Ordinance contained language that stated, among other things, that any person found responsible for a Three Oaks Township Municipal Civil Infraction shall be punishable by the following minimum civil fines: First Offense within a three-year period, $100; Second Offense within a three-year period, $250; and Third Offense within a three-year period, $500.
The adoption of the Michigan Housing Law contained language stating, among other things, that any person, firm or corporation that fails to comply with the provisions of the Act/Ordinance shall be deemed responsible for a civil infraction, and if convicted be punished by a fine not to exceed $500 and court costs, in the discretion of the court.
In addition, each day that a violation of the ordinance exists shall constitute a separate offense, and the township shall have the authority to proceed in any court of competent jurisdiction for the purpose of obtaining injunctive relief or other appropriate remedy to compel compliance with the ordinance.
Also on the agenda, Mangold reviewed a letter he sent to the Berrien County Road Department in response to correspondence he received from them requesting a list of potential future road projects.
Mangold said the roads he named for various improvements were, in no order of preference: Martin, Schwark, Phillips, Witt, Olive Branch and Ray.
During his monthly report on the progress of the project to preserve and renovate the historic Spring Creek Schoolhouse he has been spearheading, trustee Chris Mitchell said that a fundraising event at the Lynn and Allen Turner Farm that will take place on the afternoon of Sun., Oct 6 will feature speakers Myrna Grove and Ed Miller.
Grove is a historical author who has written books about pioneer life in the Midwest in the 1800s, including one titled “The Legacy of the One Room School House.”
Octogenarian Miller is a former student at the Spring Creek School who has great knowledge and remembrances of spending time there as a young boy.
Finally, a motion to spend an amount not to exceed $400 for the purchase of a flagpole and flag to be installed at the historic Shedd Cemetery was passed unanimously.