One budget area questioned at a pair of public hearings for the 2019-20 budget was legal fees. Currently, next year’s budget for legal fees shows the total June 30, 2019 estimate goes from $102,516 to the current 2018-19 budget of $241,050.

One budget area questioned at a pair of public hearings for the 2019-20 budget was legal fees. Currently, next year’s budget for legal fees shows the total June 30, 2019 estimate goes from $102,516 to the current 2018-19 budget of $241,050.

Photo by Sarah Purlee


Legal fees questioned in Macomb Township budget

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published July 9, 2019

 Macomb Township Trustee Roger Krzeminski said at a June 26 budget hearing that budgets don’t always reflect what was spent the prior year.

Macomb Township Trustee Roger Krzeminski said at a June 26 budget hearing that budgets don’t always reflect what was spent the prior year.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — A pair of public hearings were held at Macomb Township Board of Trustees meetings June 12 and June 26 for the 2019-20 budget.

On June 12, Macomb Township Finance Director Stacy Smith said five of the 12 funds in the budget — general, fire operating, public improvement, fire improvement and building authority — reflect a shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year.

The parks and recreation, parks and recreation revolving, law enforcement, municipal roadway, fire pension, retiree healthcare, and water and sewer funds exhibit a surplus.

One area of the budget questioned by board members was legal fees.   

Currently, the 2019-20 budget shows the total June 30, 2019, estimate goes from $102,516 to the current 2018-19 budget of $241,050.

At the June 12 meeting, Smith said the estimated actual is $102,874 this year and next year is budgeted to be $250,145.

Clerk Kristi Pozzi asked Smith if General Counsel and Human Resources Director Tom Esordi gave her a reason for the increase, to which she said “no.”

Esordi said it’s not an increase.

“The budgeted amount is the same as this year’s number,” Smith said. “They were under budget this year.”

Trustee Tim Bussineau asked if legal fees were under budget, why wouldn’t the new budget reflect what was spent in the 2018-19 budget.

“Why are we expecting this cushion?” he asked. “Every year in the legal department, why wouldn’t we just put next year’s budget what we did this year? What are we expecting next year in legal bills? Even if we come under, shouldn’t we lower that line to what we did this year?”

Fellow Trustee Roger Krzeminski said that’s not the way a budget is done.

“Budgets don’t go based on what you did in past experience,” he said. “You’ve got to give a cushion of up to 20% of what’s going to happen in the new year.”

Treasurer Karen Goodhue said all department heads budget higher and always come in lower.

At the June 26 meeting, Smith addressed an email sent to the board from a resident which compared last year’s actual spending to this year’s budget request.

The resident states he’s been involved in the budgetary process for 21 years and reviewed the proposed expense budget, noting a 143% increase in the legal department.

Pozzi said the actual for legal fees in 2018 was $127,078 and is budgeted in the next fiscal year for $250,145, almost double. She asked Esordi what he sees happening in the next fiscal year.

“I’m not foreseeing litigation,” he said, “I’m creating a budget that takes into account my experience. It would be almost reckless on my behalf to make sure the township doesn’t have the money set aside.”

He added it would be very common for a municipality around the size of Macomb Township to have roughly three cases a year, with the average cost being around $50,000 through case evaluation.

Bussineau said the township is not saving money anymore in the HR and general counsel budget.

“I don’t know why next year you foresee this doubling,” he said. “Is there something we don’t know? Why do need another $150,000 in our budget?”

Esordi reiterated that he’s anticipating, based on his experience in the last 28 years, that it would not be uncommon for a municipality the size of Macomb Township to have three lawsuits a year.