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Trustees Catch Flak from Residents for Proposed 2013 Budget

A group of about 25 residents attended a public hearing Monday for the 2013 proposed Mount Pleasant budget.

The residents who spoke at the Mount Pleasant public hearing Monday night told trustees that they're not planning for the future and putting the village at risk as a result.

The 2012 levy was $16 million with a mill rate of $6.62 per $1,000 in assessed value. With a $16.9 million levy, property owners will pay $7.40 per $1,000 in assessed value, an increase of 77 cents, or about 11 percent.

Trustees will vote on the proposed 2013 budget next Monday, but left by a last-minute insurance plan change for municipal employees. Cuts to capital purchases will almost certainly be part of the solution even though the board seems unable to come to consensus right now.

During the public comment period, Rob Richardson told trustees that they are not using growth appropriately to fund the growing needs for village services.

"We had growth that allows the village to increase the budget and look to the future, not cut critical investment," he said. "The board appears to have no end game, no vision for the future except a perpetual cycle of the next big budget cut."

Under state law, municipalities can raise the levy in an amount equal to new growth. Mount Pleasant saw $40 million in new construction in 2011, a 1.54 percent increase, which would have allowed trustees to raise the levy to about $17.2 million.

Before the insurance plan change, the $16.9 million was considered high enough to fund a list of needed equipment like new computers, a front-end loader for public works, five squad cars for the police department, a new ambulance for the fire department and a variety of road projects.

"This is not about squad cars or a plow truck, it’s about people; don’t forget that," said South Shore Fire union President William Miller. "This is about the people who drive through the village, who live here and pay taxes, who work here ... But for you, it’s about grandstanding and personal agendas and seeing what can be cut."

What also had resident Rees Roberts upset was the board's seeming inability to make the decision to raise taxes an estimated $40 to $70 a year, depending on property assessments.

"$40? That's what this is about?" he questioned. "People have needs and it's your job to fill them. What the heck is going on here? Am I looking at the problem right now?"

Trustee Karen Albeck explained that raising the levy wasn't the issue, it was plugging the hole left by the insurance decision.

"We published the budget at $16.9 but with this insurance plan, the levy actually goes to $17.2, and that is illegal," she said. "So now we have to decide where to cut when it comes to capital."

Trustees will vote on the budget next Monday. The board meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Village Hall 8811 Campus Drive.

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