|Todd T. Birkle is the manager of Oakland County Support Services, a job which entails supervision of 32 employees and preparation and administration of a budget of over $10 million. A member of the White Lake Township Planning Commission since 2004, he has also served on the Waterford Township Board of Trustees from 1994 to 2000.|
Incumbent trustees Todd T. Birkle, Carol J. Burkard, David Lewsley and Michael C. Powell; and challengers Mark S. DeGroff, Randy J. Hebert, Rik Kowall, Patti Page, Scott Ruggles, and Andrea C. Voorheis will compete in the Tuesday, Aug. 7 Republican primary election for one of four trustee spots on the White Lake Township Board of Trustees. Trustees serve four-year terms and are currently paid $8,175 per year.
No Democrats filed for election as a township trustee, so the top four vote-getters will earn four-year terms.
The following are questions our staff recently posed to Birkle, and his responses to those questions.
BUDGET: All municipal governments in Michigan have faced difficult budget scenarios over the past few years, as declines in property values have produced a revenue stream that can’t keep up with various rising costs. What changes in township budgeting priorities or processes do you advocate to deal with these hurdles? Where could the township’s budget be trimmed back? What, if anything, in the budget should be held harmless from the budget ax?
BIRKLE: It would be beneficial for the township to switch to a two-year budget. This will allow the township to plan/forecast for multiple years instead of just one. Therefore, budget priorities can be established. A part of the priorities will be to establish funding for some unfunded liabilities. For example, the township has $4.5 million in unfunded retiree health care liabilities and $12 million for active employees. A plan needs to be in place to pay down this liability instead of the present method of pay as you go.
The budgets for both police and fire (departments) could benefit from a reorganization and creativity to produce savings. An overtime review in both departments is needed; some contract changes would reduce this expense.
When dealing with taxpayer dollars, no operational areas should be held harmless.
PUBLIC SAFETY MILLAGES: For years there has been discussion at the township board level about consolidating the township’s various millages for police and fire services into one levy. Tell us why you do or don’t support that idea. Please state why you do or don’t support the public safety millages appearing on the primary election ballot.
BIRKLE: I do not support the consolidation of the police and fire millages into one public safety levy. I feel the citizens of White Lake should be able to decide the level of funding they would like to see allocated to each operation. The budgets of each operation should reflect the actual cost to perform that function. For example, the Police Department pays 100 percent of the cost of the police/fire dispatch center. The Fire Department should be responsible for the percentage of the cost associated with its operation. Also, I am not in favor of the elimination of the millages and the creation of a special assessment for police and fire. I really do not have an issue placing these items on the primary (election) ballot because I hope this would lead to increased voter turnout.
DEVELOPMENT: White Lake has seen a boom in development in recent years, with everything from small businesses to “big box” stores opening up, particularly along M-59. Is there a point when there is “too much” development in White Lake? As supervisor, what, if anything, would you do to attract new businesses to White Lake? When will it be appropriate, if ever, to revisit the corridor improvement authority concept in the township?
BIRKLE: White Lake Township has an excellent Planning Commission and Community Development Department. The development focus has been quality projects that will be sustainable businesses in the future. The township master plan has identified key areas in the township for new development and redevelopment. If development is consistent with the master plan, no development will be “too much.”
A good way to attract business is being able to provide utilities. The M-59 corridor has both water and sewer (service) in place. Also, the township has just completed a process called “clear-zoning,” wherein all the township zoning ordinances are available online. This makes it easy for developers to look at White Lake for their projects.
Some variation or a corridor improvement authority may prove beneficial in an area that has been targeted for redevelopment.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the township, and how do you propose to address them?
BIRKLE: No. 1, unfunded liabilities. The 2011 audit report showed the township has $4.5 million in unfunded retiree health care liability and $12 million in active employee liability. The township has been paying this expense on an as-you-go basis. Funding should to be allocated in the annual budget to reduce this health care liability over the next several years. Also, the township sewer fund will be broke in 2013. I have requested a special board meeting to discuss this issue and options.
No. 2, the procurement policy. The township board adopted a procurement policy in 2008. This policy is not being followed on a consistent basis. Copies of the policy should be distributed to the full-time elected officials and department managers. These individuals should be required to sign a document indicating they have received a copy of the policy. The ultimate enforcement of the policy falls on the supervisor. I will continue to monitor the procurement process to ensure the procedures are being followed.
No. 3, general budget issues. The township has a one-year budget. The township should adopt a two-year rolling budget so future expenses can be forecasted. Also, items that have potential cost savings (such as contracting with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department for dispatch) need to be investigated. I am not in favor of creating new millages to offset the loss in tax revenue without exhausting other options.
WHY YOU? Why specifically should voters choose you over your opponent?
BIRKLE: I am a graduate of Central Michigan University with a degree in economics. I have been employed by Oakland County for 24 years. My present position is the manager of Oakland County Support Services. In this role, I supervise 32 employees and I am response for the preparation and administration of a budget over $10 million. I am presently a White Lake trustee and have sat on the Planning Commission since 2004. Previously, I was an elected Waterford Township trustee from 1994 to 2000.
Based on my work experience and training, I have a vast amount of knowledge of governmental budgets and daily governmental operations. I have had to make difficult decisions to balance a budget.