Ironwood Township board passes budget, holds off on raises
January 7, 2021
By RICHARD JENKINS
Ironwood Township -- The Ironwood Township Board of Trustees passed the township’s general fund budget at a special meeting last week but opted against approving raises for the three elected officials -- at least for the time being.
The budget -- which passed by a vote of 6-1 -- projects $962,246 in general fund revenue and $1,005,067 in general fund expenses over the coming year, with the remainder of the expenses coming from the township’s fund balance. The fund balance is projected to be $587,265 at the end of the year.
Trustee Brenda Aili-Angus was the lone vote against the budget.
A motion to increase the salaries for the supervisor, clerk and treasurer that accompanied the discussion around the budget approval failed by a vote of 4-3.
Trustees Gabe Justinak and Jim Simmons, along with Treasurer Maria Graser, voted for the proposed increase; while Aili-Angus, Trustee Kevin Lyons, Supervisor Jay Kangas and Clerk Mary Segalin voted against the measure.
The proposed raise would have given the officials an extra $1 an hour. Justinak, who made the motion, said this would have translated to $2,080 more a year for each person.
Supporters of the motion argued the raises not only reflected a cost-of-living adjustment but also the hard work the clerk and treasurer have been doing.
“For the last year and a half as I was working as supervisor, I’ve seen some really good work happening and interaction between the clerk and the treasurer. That’s why you’ve had three perfect audits with no deficiencies, which is basically unheard of, and I do believe it’s time to recognize good work,” Simmons said. “I wouldn’t even call it a raise, I’d call it a cost-of-living adjustment because that’s truly what it is.”
Justinak argued the raises also keep the elected offices attractive to future candidates.
“You’ve got to make these jobs -- not a wealthy job, but they’ve got to be where someone can work them 40 hours a week and make somewhat of a decent living. They’re way underpaid in my book, all three of the positions,” he said at a public hearing prior to the meeting.
The supervisor is set to get paid $37,440 next year, according to the salary resolution the board passed earlier in the month, with the clerk and treasurer receiving $39,002.
Much of the opposition to the proposed raises had less to do with whether they were merited and more with the fact they hadn’t been brought up earlier in the budget process.
“To me, this motion lacks transparency with the public and it seems like at the 11th hour we’re slipping it in,” Lyons said. “I’m not saying they’re not deserved, I’m not even getting into that, procedurally the way we’re doing this -- I don’t like it, the public will not have any input now into this.”
Kangas said he wasn’t looking for a raise and didn’t want to accept it if the measure passed.
There was also a question whether the board needed a resolution to pass the salary increase.
After the vote, Segalin clarified her vote against the measure was because she felt a resolution was needed to change the salaries since that’s how they were set, rather than a simple motion.
Although the measure failed, it may become something the board addresses at a future meeting.
Simmons said he wanted a resolution for the board to vote on at a future meeting.
“I just don’t feel comfortable the way that it is right now,” he said after the vote.”We need to get this squared away in January.”
In other action, the board:
--Opted out of Public Act 152, a state law which deals with how healthcare costs are split.
--Authorized township officials to make a payment on the township’s insurance policy.