OSCODA – With four new board members taking their place on the Oscoda Township Board of Trustees, Monday night’s meeting focused primarily on board procedures.
On the agenda were four resolutions establishing the salaries of the township supervisor, clerk, treasurer and trustees, a topic that became controversial among the previous board members.
The board voted unanimously to set the salary of Supervisor Ann Richards at $15,957.43, and trustees William Palmer, Timothy Cummings, Jeremy Spencer and Steven Wusterbarth will earn $4,538.66 annually. But the salary of the clerk and treasurer will be determined at a later date, after the board holds a special work session on the subject.
As reported, in September the board voted to advertise for a full-time finance director to help with the township’s finances. In order to budget the salary for the position, it was proposed that the board reduce the clerk and treasurer positions to part time. That would bring their salaries down from $48,551.35 in 2020, to $15,957.43 in 2021.
On Monday’s agenda, the proposed salaries were set at $49,522.38 — a reflection of the full-time status of the clerk and treasurer. But Wusterbarth requested that the financial director proposal be added to the agenda, as he was in favor of reducing those positions to part-time.
“So you don’t agree with the fact that it’s illegal to take away the duties of the clerk and the treasurer’s office?” Treasurer Jaimie McGuire asked Wusterbarth.
“Well, Jaimie, if you’d like to have that discussion I’ve got a different legal opinion about that,” Wusterbarth responded.
Richards made two separate motions to approve the proposed clerk and treasurer salaries as-is, with support from McGuire. Clerk Joshua Sutton also voted in favor of the proposal, but the other board members did not. The motions failed 2-5.
“The only thing I would point out in regard to that is that the proposed 2021 budget — which we haven’t adopted yet — does not cover that salary for the treasurer and the clerk,” Palmer said. “If we’re going with the higher salaries, then that money for the financial advisor would not be available under the current budget.”
The budget is due to be finalized by Dec. 15, the day after the next regular board meeting. Because of this, the board members agreed to postpone the discussion of the financial director position and clerk and treasurer salaries until a work session scheduled for Dec. 1 at a time to be determined.
At Wusterbarth’s suggestion, the board also voted to re-establish a contract with financial consultants at The WoodHill Group.
In September, the board narrowly approved a proposal for the company to conduct an audit of the township finances and close out the year. The original contract was later cancelled after a closed session with the board attorney, and the decision to reduce the clerk and treasurer positions was postponed.
Wusterbarth said he felt that they didn’t have a clue where the township stands financially, and that an audit would provide a clearer understanding of the finances.
“I make a motion to engage the WoodHill Group for financial consulting services for a professional contract agreement for financial accounting of the township, in an amount not to exceed $50,000,” Wusterbarth said, with support from Palmer.
But McGuire said the original contract was illegal and redundant because the township is also contracted with another company to conduct an end-of-year audit.
“There’s portions in the agreement that was approved, which is why it was rescinded, that it’s taking over duties of the clerk and treasurer’s office, which they cannot do by law,” McGuire said.
Richards said she wasn’t in support of the proposal because the township didn’t go out to bid on the contract and the new board members aren’t familiar with the details.
“I understand, Mr. Wusterbarth, you’re doing this to be fiscally responsible but I don’t think it is fiscally responsible, especially because it is not going to eliminate the audit that we’ve already contracted with that’s going to be starting in January or February,” Richards said.
The motion to contract with the WoodHill Group for accounting services passed 4-3, with McGuire, Richards and Sutton dissenting.
Additionally during Monday’s meeting, board members were designated to serve on different boards and subcommittees. Palmer volunteered to continue serving on the planning commission as well as the Economic Improvement Committee, with Sutton as the alternate for the latter. Richards will represent the board on the Airport Authority board, with Wusterbarth as an alternate.
Superintendent Michael Mitchell will serve on the HSRUA board, with Spencer as his alternate. Richards will serve on the 911 Board, with Spencer as the alternate. Cummings will continue serving on the RAB, with Richards as an alternate. Wusterbarth will serve on the Cedar Lake Advisory Committee, with McGuire as an alternate, and McGuire will continue to serve on the LDFA with Sutton as an alternate.