Despite approving personnel cuts in two departments for the 2013 budget, Mount Pleasant trustees Monday night voted unanimously to put the brakes on those moves until they get clearance from legal counsel.
At issue are the elimination of a position each in the clerk's office and municipal court and instead using part-time hourly workers to fill in gaps as needed.
Village Clerk/Treasurer Veronica Rudychev presented her department budget to the board during the October budget workshops. Her 2013 numbers reflect the elimination of a deputy clerk—leaving one full-time deputy in place—and instead introducing a receptionist position that would be staffed by two part-time people.
There is a similar situation in the municipal court. Court Clerk Theresa Gentz-Eloundou and Judge Michael Phlegley presented their 2013 budget in which the assistant clerk is also replaced by part-time, hourly workers.
The 2013 Mount Pleasant budget was approved 6-1 on Nov. 12 with the proposed cuts to both departments.
In both cases, though, some village trustees questioned the changes because they said the affected employees may retire early next year, which prompted the closed-session discussion Monday night. As of Monday, neither individual had submitted the formal paperwork to signal their desire to retire.
Interim Village President James Majdoch said he thought a legal opinion was needed because trustees were questioning statutes. Trustee Gary Feest said there is disagreement amongst board members about the direction, understanding and intent of the budget.
"So instead of taking the advice of the loudest trustee, we'll get a legal opinion from our labor attorney about the facts so we can protect employees and the village," he said.
Trustee Karen Albeck not only thinks the time to make changes to the 2013 budget has long passed but she questions why department heads were asked for efficiencies if the board is just going to disregard them.
"Department heads were asked to propose fiscal efficiencies during the budget process and they did so. The approved budget includes those efficiencies," she said. "Some trustees who have expressed displeasure with a couple of the components of the budget related to specific personnel failed to request a budget amendment at the time of adoption."
A budget not yet in effect cannot be amended after its approval so any changes will have to wait until after the first of the year anyway, after the positions would effectively be eliminated.
Both Albeck and Trustee Jerry Garski said they voted for the move to get a legal opinion because they're confident the opinion will come out in favor of the budget.
"We voted in the budget to eliminate the positions," Garski said. "I voted for the motion because I am confident any legal opinion we get will show that we are within our rights as a board to fund or not fund staff positions."
It has been suggested that the current employees be given the option of applying for the new part-time positions. If they don't apply or they choose to retire as of Dec. 31, they would then be ineligible for unemployment compensation, which can run $19,000 annually per person.
Trustees expect to have this legal advice by Dec. 19 so they have time to act, if necessary, before the end of the year.