|White Lake Township Clerk Terry Lilley previously served as township trustee in 1980 and again from 2004 to 2008, as township supervisor from 1992 to 1996, and as township building official from 1981 to 1985. He was first elected to the clerk position in 2008.|
Incumbent Terry Lilley is one of three competing in the Tuesday, Aug. 7 Republican primary election for White Lake Township clerk. With no Democratic candidate filed for the position, the winner of the Republican primary contest will be White Lake’s next clerk. The White Lake Township clerk serves four-year terms and currently earns $69,707 annually.
The following are questions our staff recently posed to Lilley, and his responses to those questions.
CLERK’S ROLE: Clerks have a role in the township’s financial affairs that is often overlooked. Is there a need for changes or improvements in the way the Clerk’s Office handles these financial responsibilities?
LILLEY: No. 1, we need to understand where we started from and where we are going to go. Over the past four years, we’ve had a 30 percent loss in revenue. That revenue is, in the future, probably going to be replaced if revenues even level off. We hope that they have. The township is probably going to experience a 3 percent rate increase.
At that rate it’s probably going to take us 8 to 10 years to get us back to where we were in 2008. That’s a major concern because, with union contracts and stuff that we have all the way through 2013 and people going without raises and those type of things, that could come into play in future years.
If revenues don’t rise accordingly, then we’re going to be behind the eight ball, so to speak, for quite a period of time. Those revenues and the way they increase are going to be a major issue or player and how we plan and project for three years ahead of time.
RECORDS: The township clerk is also responsible for record-keeping and storage of the township’s records and documents. What changes or upgrades, if any, do you anticipate having to make in the way records are kept or stored in the township?
LILLEY: If you’ve been in our township and (see) what we have currently, we have records stored in the meeting room, the women’s restroom, the storage building outside. Again, we went through a period of lost revenue, having to take money, almost $800,000 in the last 3 years, out of the budget.
Part of the plan is to start moving forward. We just approved a new collaborative effort with Waterford Township to get online, rebuilding our server in its entirety, and getting on programs that will allow us to scan documents and put those into safe keeping, as well as a more researchable form for everybody. But because of the budget restrictions in the last two years of my administration, we didn’t have the revenue to do that.
We have implemented new equipment with the server. We have implemented our program with Waterford Township. We have programs now that allow us to continue forward to scan and make more things available. We have implemented the new e-poll books for the elections in the last two years. We were one of the first on board to implement that.
I am not a computer person, but I’ve been very supportive and have to remind myself there are better ways to do things. But we’ve been hampered by our ability to afford things we would like. Because we’ve conducted the possibility of 5 elections before the end of the year, after the beginning of the year we will start moving forward as far as scanning documents, getting them into a researchable program, and then making them more available on the website for people, too.
I’ve taken a great amount of criticism from one of my opponents that I think she believes that we haven’t went through the tough times, that we have the equipment to do what we had to do and we didn’t, and those will be available moving forward.
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?
LILLEY: No. 1, the township, when it realized that there was the beginning of lost revenue, we took action to make changes within the budget. One of the changes we made moving forward – we are going through three-year projections. But we cut almost $800,000 out of the budget in 2008-2009. As a result of those, there were a couple people being cut. One person cut out of the Clerk’s Office and one grant writer position. You know the result of that was a potential lawsuit that resulted from that.
Those were all difficult decisions that the board, not just (myself), made on a 7-0 vote (saying) that those were the necessary cuts to happen. Since that period of time, we have balanced our budget, lived within our means, so to speak, or our income. We have not cut any police or fire personnel. However, we didn’t fill vacancies that occurred in either one of those two departments. That has resulted in the fact that in 2010 we asked for a small increase to maintain the current level of police funding – I should say the level of personnel and the service we provide to people. And in 2012 this year we’ve asked for that 0.5-mill increase for fire that will only allow us to maintain the current level of staffing and service that people, that we feel at the board level, is necessary to maintain.
We have trimmed back our budgets so much at this point that quite honestly any huge loss of revenue that we are going to have results in peoples’ positions at this point. We can go through the budgets and cut out paper clips and small minor issues, but quite honestly we’ve got it down to the point where we are maintaining a level, hoping that the tax revenue will increase. But we haven’t gotten to that point yet and the result will be any future cuts will be (like) what the board did in 2008, that we are going to have to trim back in personnel, salaries, wages, and benefits.
We’re trying to take it that the most important aspect of the future of White Lake and our budgeting process that we maintain the current level of police and fire. Those are two major expenses of the township. We spend about $4.3 million in the police budget, and I think fire was about $2.3 million. And then the General Fund is about $3.9 million. And we’re hoping and that’s why we in 2008 cut back on the General (Fund) portion. We did not want to get into public safety.
Moving forward, we feel if we become lax in those two departments, with the growth happening and revenues being short, that we are going to be inviting crime to White Lake Township. And we feel very strongly that we want to stop that at our border. We don’t want it to start. If we allow it to happen, it’s going to take years to clean up the mess. So that is kind of our No. 1 priority at this point, to maintain that level of protective services for our citizens. And I think most of the people who move to White Lake enjoy that particular aspect of feeling secure and safe and (feel it is) a good place for the kids to play.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the township, and how do you propose to address them?
LILLEY: The three issues are what we’ve already talked about, No. 1 being police and fire protection, that we feel strongly that we maintain that current level of staffing and funding. No. 2 is to balance the budget. No. 3 going forward (is being) concerned about where our community is going to go from here.
I think there are three aspects of the community that are very important, one being the M-59 corridor and the development of that. We want to see in the future that there is going to be more cooperation with (the Michigan Department of Transportation) to kind of clean up the corridor as far as the current walkways are cleaned up, the deterioration of the barriers along M-59.
From a commercial aspect, we need the M-59 corridor cleaned up and (to) continue promoting businesses to come to White Lake. We are a little bit different that we are promoting unusual types of businesses like The Root and stuff that people seem to like, even though it’s a selective group that like to go to that type of restaurant, that we provide that which other (communities) don’t. So we want to continue that aspect.
On the north side of M-59, we’ve enjoyed the acreage parcels up there, and I think we want to keep it that way. On the south side of M-59, we want to continue to promote the residential homes and the sewer and water (infrastructure) in that area — really not change a lot from where we are at today, but make sure the homes are being occupied that are currently left vacant, that people’s families continue as generations go on to live in White Lake and enjoy the playground aspects of the lakes and the parks and whatever that we have to do.
Also along with that is to continue the development of where JCPenney is and the big vacant land that surrounds that to the south, that that develops in what we originally thought a couple years ago as a small town center or meeting place (where) we can maybe hold our own parades or community activities like the Tree Lighting Ceremony that has been very successful. We want to continue those type of community promotions in order to make White Lake a good place to live.
WHY YOU? Why specifically should voters choose you over your opponent?
LILLEY: I think for a number of reasons. I’m not a career politician like my opponents claim that I may be. I spent a major portion of my life in the private sector as a residential builder.
I have experiences being a former supervisor of White Lake. I’ve enjoyed four years as trustee and an additional four years as the township clerk.
I think my knowledge of the subjects that we have, the knowledge of going through the files and putting these together and weeding out the duplicate copies, and looking at what should be in the file and whatnot, I think is a great benefit to me that I can offer the rest of this community.
I lived here all my life. I continue to raise my family here. Four of my five children live in White Lake Township. I think my experience is the best thing. I think my education, my experience, and my relationship with my customers that know me have been greatly improved.
We all grow up with age a little bit and we mature. I think the knowledge level is the most helpful to me in making decisions. So I know what’s happened in the past. I think as supervisor I had my visions for this community as far as the town center and whatnot goes. And I think moving forward I want to keep this a good, safe place to live.