Liberty Township fiscal officer Mark Gerber recommended cost-cutting steps Jan. 19, when he presented trustees with a report on the 2009 budget.

Liberty Township fiscal officer Mark Gerber recommended cost-cutting steps Jan. 19, when he presented trustees with a report on the 2009 budget.

The year was marked by deficit spending in the general fund and fire department, he said.

The report looks at revenues versus expenditures for the township's three primary funds: fire services, general operating, and roads and bridges.

Fire services spent $541,483 in excess of revenues, Gerber said. The expenses in that fund include firefighter and EMS personnel salaries, supplies, utilities, and equipment purchases and maintenance.

The 2009 revenues for the fire services fund were $6.1-million, and the 2009 expenditures were $6.6-million.

Of the expenses, $5.7-million, or 94 percent, was for wages and benefits, Gerber said, noting that a better "financial model" would be "having employee costs" around 50 to 60 percent of expenditures.

Trustee Curt Sybert said the township did not have competitive pay for the fire department compared to area departments and over the past several years, it increased compensation to retain its employees.

The second fire station opened in 2004 and increased the number of employees, he said. The new employees were getting step increases over the past five years, which would have increased costs considerably, at least initially.

Sybert recommended Gerber compare Liberty employee expenses with area townships.

The fire services fund has a carryover balance from the previous year to cover the expenditures.

The surplus had accumulated until 2008, when the fund began spending in excess of revenues, Gerber said.

In January 2009, the surplus was $3.7-million, Gerber told ThisWeek. Of that surplus, $2-million has been designated as savings for a future fire station in the north end of the township. The $541,483 in excess spending for 2009 was covered from the $1.7-million that had been designated as surplus operating expenses. The January 2010 surplus total for the fire services is $3.2-million.

General fund expenditures exceeded revenue by $200,028, he said. Expenses in that fund include wages for the administration, fiscal, zoning and park and rec personnel; office supplies; utilities; and office rental.

The general fund had $1.8-million in revenue for 2009, with expenditures of $2-million.

Employee wages and benefits cost $1.1-million and are 61.6 percent of the 2009 expenses.

The general fund has been spending in excess of revenues for the last five years, Gerber said, noting that legal bills and Havener Park development were the two primary reasons the general budget has not been "in the black."

Gerber also said general fund revenues dropped 20 percent in 2009. Decreases included a drop in interest earned on investments -- $16,193 in 2009, down from $183,763 the previous year. Intergovernmental revenues (such as estate taxes and local government funds) dropped to $213,870 in 2009 from the previous year's $551,472.

The general fund has a carryover balance from the previous year, which covered the excess spending. The carryover for the fund as of Jan. 1 is $903,306, township documents show.

Also discussed at the meeting was the road and bridge fund, which had revenues exceeding expenditures. It had a 2009 surplus of $70,674, Gerber said, making the fund's total surplus $511,624 on Jan. 1.

Expenses in that fund include road crew wages, utilities, supplies and equipment purchase, and maintenance.

The fund had $1,125,400 in revenues and $1,054,726 in expenditures.

Employee wages and benefits cost $577,875 and were 51.3 percent of the expenditures, which Gerber said was a very good ratio.

Gerber recommended several changes in expenditures, which trustees said they would consider:

The township pays 100 percent of its employees' retirement system contributions. Gerber recommended having employees pay 6.2 percent of their wages to retirement. That's the percentage typically contributed to Social Security.

Increase the employees' monthly insurance coverage contribution from $15 for single coverage and $25 for both couple and family coverage to $25 for single, $35 for couple and $45 for family.

Eliminate short-term disability insurance, because that type of benefit is covered in other areas.

bbutcher@thisweeknews.com