SHOW US THE MONEY
Milton Township trustee fails to file budget; no funds for fire department
Saturday, February 15, 2014 4:00 AM
Milton Township is starting this year without a certified budget, and state officials and local volunteer firefighters are looking to the township trustee for answers.
The county's certified budget for 2014 has no dollars in appropriations for Milton Township's general fund and the township fire department fund.
The fire department typically receives anywhere from $8,000 to $8,500 a year from the township, depending on its tax rate.
The annual payment - which makes up more than one-third on the department's budget - is enough to cover insurance, fuel and maintenance, said Aaron Heath, assistant chief of Brooksburg/Milton Township Fire & Rescue.
The township's final budget report includes details that the township failed to submit a budget worksheet review to the County Council or its budget forms to the state.
The township's trustee, Tammy Stewart, would oversee the process of crafting and submitting the annual budget to the state.
While the county can review the budget and make recommendations, the trustee and advisory board members are responsible for changing any line items before the budget is adopted locally and then moved to the state for final approval.
Cathy Stockoff, a budget field representative with the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, said the issue with Milton Township's budget's has been ongoing. The department reported that the township has not submitted a budget for the past two years.
The first year the township did not submit its budget forms, the state rolled over the previous year's budget.
This year is different. With no budget request for the second consecutive year, the state has maintained Milton Township's tax levy but has not appropriated additional money for 2014.
Without a budget, the township cannot provide residents with township assistance - one of the chief duties of the trustee - pay wages or provide funds to the Milton/Brooksburg Township Fire Department.
The Indiana Department of Local Government Finance said the township could enter a proposed budget still for this year, but that it would need to be adopted as an additional appropriation of funds.
Heath and other members of the fire department have been spreading the word to get a response from Stewart or even state officials.
He said he has attempted to reach Stewart several times but has not received a response. Heath said the department invited Stewart to the department's monthly board meeting in January, but said she did not appear.
On Thursday, Stewart told The Madison Courier that there was no problem with the budget and added that the fire department would receive a payment in March.
Stewart agreed to an interview at The Madison Courier office on Friday but canceled due to weather concerns. She did not answer repeated phone calls to conduct the interview by phone.
The fire department operates on an annual budget of about $20,000, with about $8,000 to $8,500 coming from the township fund.
"We run on a pretty shoe-string budget as it is," Heath said.
Currently, the department only has $2,000 in its general fund, Heath said, adding that the account typically has $5,000 to $6,000 in it at this point in the year.
In the past, he said the trustee has paid the department twice a year - once in January and again in July. Last year, the payment came in the form of a one-time installment of $7,900.
The department could dip into its savings but Heath said he would rather reserve those funds for their intended use, such as unforeseen expenses on equipment.
Heath, who has been with the department for more than 30 years, said he has been persistent about the funding requests because the fire unit depends on those funds to operate.
"All we're asking for now is that we can get what's owed to us," he said.