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Friday, January 11, 2013

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FIREMEN




Washington Township Meeting recap 1-9-2013

   Bob Bolin (C), Kim Merideth (C), SON Scotty Manley (T), and DAD Bud Manley (C)
(C-council    T-Trustee)



A full quorum of the Washington Township Board voted to vote another day on the salary ordinance for township employees. Previously, the board decided that with the exception of longevity pay increases for 5 firefighters, all pay would remain the same.   This ordinance will cover township clerk, trustee, board, firemen, and bookkeeper.

THIS MONTHS REIMBURSEMENT PLAN

Fire Chief Mike Herrington pleaded with the board to change their clothing allowance policy.  Last year, all fireman were just handed $1,000 as a “clothing allowance” as part of their salary.   They received the money whether or not they spent A PENNY OF IT on fire related clothing.  This benefit has been a well-known and highly protected special salary perk for them.   At the end of last year, Kim introduced a new common sense reimbursement policy that passed by a motion of the board.   The new policy requires firemen to actually “buy” fire-fighting clothing, turn in a receipt, and be reimbursed for their expenses.

Last month many of our firemen, who are paid upwards of $65K per year and had 11 fire runs last month, were up in arms and protesting loudly saying that this policy was just “too much of a hardship” on them and their families.  Buying a pair of pants with your VISA card and submitting a receipt for reimbursement IS quite a hardship.  I buy everything on credit.   I understand.  This policy is truly cruel and unusual punishment for these men and their families.
Mike presented an alternative whereby the firemen could still get their clothing plus be able to take taxpayer cash, up to the $1,000 for what they did not spend on clothing.  However, this puts the firefighters in charge of the tracking, the bookkeeping, and the buying.   After presenting and getting the brand new policy passed last month, Kim did not even stand strong and back her own policy.  She just said that she would consider this policy.  Martinsville firefighters receive $750 allowance.
  
BUDGET SHELL GAME

Scott Manley asked for a resolution that would allow only HIM to move money around for 2012 results within the budget “to make things work”, whatever that means.  This is clearly contrary to the intent of Indiana law, State Accounting Procedures, and common sense.   Scotty had done some shopping for opinions at the Indiana State Board of Accounts (ISBOA) and reported to the board that the ISBOA said this schemes of his were A-OK.   Everyone understood exactly what Scotty wanted and as a result, the motion by Scotty failed for a second motion. 


FIREMENS LEGAL BILLS

For years the attorney fees associated with the fire department have been paid for by the township budget and by taxpayers not even associated with the firemen’s district.  According to the ISBOA and the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF), the firemen should create their own line item in a budget for their own legal bills instead of spending someone else’s money from a different taxing district.  This would require that the firemen move some money from an account to a new one for their legal bills. 
John Lake, firemen said “you’re already cuttin it close, now you’re wantin to steal money from somewhere else to make another line item.”  Bob Bolin, based upon thorough research replied “We have a unique situation here.   We have 2 fire departments within one township.  The Washington township protection is a separate fire tax, and we’re using general government money, which involves 12,000 people from Martinsville who are in a different taxing district, to pay the legal bills of the firemen from Washington Township.” 

Bolin also noted that most of the legal bills last year were due to the actions of one Lonnie Kern in his continual quest to “jaw” with Pete Foley about the fire department and his issues.    To address John’s statement about stealing, it appears that the firemen, with the assistance of Lonnie and his legal bills, may have been improperly using funds from the taxpayers of Martinsville, clearly using money that was meant for another taxing district.    Township leader and board chair Kim’s inspiring answer to this situation was “we’ll address it later”.

SEIZING AND SUBSIDIZING

CAGIT is a type of money is distributed by the state to the townships.  It is designated and legally intended to be used for property tax reductions ONLY.   According to Bolin, if Washington Township would have used a portion of that money in accordance with the intent of the legislature, “we could almost make the general tax rate for Washington township ZERO”.  Previous Washington Township boards seized ALL of this CAGIT money, subsidized the firemen’s wages, stiffed the taxpayers, and thumbed their noses at the legislature.
The board was asked “   What are you doing to do with CAGIT money this year?”  They replied,  It’s too late to do anything this year.  That will take place in 2014. 

Meeting time 59 minutes

Next Meeting Jan 22  0530 City fire station

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